Ben Graham (football player)

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Ben Graham
Detroit Lions punter Ben Graham during the 2012 training camp.jpg
Detroit Lions punter Ben Graham during the 2012 training camp
No. --     Free Agent
Punter
Personal information
Date of birth: (1973-11-02) 2 November 1973 (age 40)
Place of birth: Geelong, Victoria, Australia
Height: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) Weight: 235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
Debuted in 2005 for the New York Jets
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • 42 punts inside the 20 in season 2009, tying Andy Lee's NFL record
  • NFC Champion (2008)
  • NFL record of oldest rookie (2005–2006)
Career NFL statistics as of Week 2, 2012
Punts 467
Punt yards 20,623
Punting yard average 44.2
Stats at NFL.com

Ben Graham (born 2 November 1973) is an Australian former professional Australian rules footballer turned professional American football punter of the National Football League, and current Strategic Operations Manager at the Western Bulldogs Football Club.

The left-footer[1] played for the New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, and Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League in the United States.

Graham's 219 game Australian Rules career was played exclusively at the Geelong Football Club in the Australian Football League between 1993 and 2004. As an Aussie Rules player, Graham was long noted for his ability to kick extraordinarily long distances with accuracy (in particular his expertise at the torpedo punt). This is one of the key reasons that he was believed to have potential as a professional NFL punter.

He is the only player to be named a captain of both an AFL and NFL side. During his career he has played in the biggest game in two codes, the AFL Grand Final (1995 AFL Grand Final) and the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XLIII). He was the first Australian to have played in a Super Bowl.

Early life[edit]

Ben Graham was born in Geelong to mother, Helen,[2] and father, Tony.[3]

Ben Graham grew up in Leopold, Victoria, and began playing Aussie Rules at a young age for the local Leopold Football Club[4] in the Bellarine Football League where his father was former premiership player and coach.

Ben's football ability was obvious from an early age, and he was selected by the Geelong U19s (now Geelong Falcons) where he was first identified by AFL talent scouts.

Australian rules football career[edit]

Ben Graham
Personal information
Full name Ben Graham
Date of birth (1973-11-02) 2 November 1973 (age 40)
Place of birth Leopold, Victoria, Australia
Original team Leopold / Geelong U19
Draft 40th overall, 1992 pre-season
Geelong
Height/Weight 196 cm / 98 kg
Position(s) Centre half-forward / Centre half-back
Playing career1
Years Club Games (Goals)
1993–2004 Geelong 219 (145)
1 Playing statistics correct to end of 2004 season.

Graham was recruited by Geelong at pick 40 in the 1992 Australian Football League (AFL) pre-season draft. He was Geelong's "Best First Year Player" in the reserves team of 1992,[5] and made his debut with the Geelong seniors late in 1993.

Graham was noted for his long kicking (in particular his expertise at the torpedo punt),[6] and could play at both ends of the ground as a key position player. He played at centre half-forward and could convert goals from distances of 60 metres, as well as playing at centre half-back, where his booming kicks cleared the ball from defence, particularly during kickouts. Once, when Graham was bringing the ball back in from play, he booted the ball 85 metres which was right to the centre of the ground.

Graham played in Geelong's 1995 AFL Grand Final loss to Carlton. For the year, he was named most improved player at Geelong.

Graham won the club's Best and Fairest award (the Carji Greeves Medal) in 1999.

He following his 1999 season with another solid season in 2000, finishing runner up in the best & fairest in a year in which he was also bestowed the honour of the club captaincy.

In 2001 he was inducted into the Geelong Football Club Hall of Fame and granted life membership.

Graham retained the club captaincy until the end of 2002.[6]

Honours[edit]

Individual:

American football career[edit]

Graham was first approached by the New York Jets to try out as a punter in 1997, however he decided to stay in the AFL.[7]

In 2004 he surprised many in Australia when he quit Australian rules football and left for the United States to pursue a career as a punter in the National Football League, where he would ultimately be paid many times more than he would have earned in Australia and extended his playing career by many years.

New York Jets[edit]

Graham was signed to a short-term contract by the New York Jets in January 2005.[7] He moved to New York City and attended Jets training camp at Hofstra University, before being confirmed as the team's starting punter for the 2005 NFL season when his predecessor Micah Knorr was released. When Graham played his first NFL regular season game, (against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium on 11 September 2005) he became the second person after Darren Bennett to play in both the AFL and the NFL (Colin Ridgeway played at AFL reserves level for Carlton), and fourth Australian NFL player. He also became the oldest rookie ever to be part of an NFL opening day roster at age 31.[8]

On 22 May 2006, the Jets signed Graham to a six-year contract worth US$5.17 million.[6]

In late 2006, Graham made history becoming the first Australian to captain an American pro-sports team when he joined the leadership group of the New York Jets. He also became the only player to captain a team in two different professional sports leagues.[9] Graham also used the Australian drop punt—a style of kicking prevalent in Australian rules football first introduced in 1997 to the NFL by fellow Australian Darren Bennett—which improves kicking efficiency and is said to be a new introduction to the game of American football.

The Jets waived Graham on 16 September 2008, but he did not miss a game: they quickly re-signed him on 22 September due to a minor injury to his replacement Reggie Hodges.[10] Graham was released again on 29 September after Hodges recovered.[11]

New Orleans Saints[edit]

On 20 October 2008, Graham signed with the New Orleans Saints to play a game in London. The team had released incumbent punter Steve Weatherford earlier in the week due to travel arrangement issues. He played just the one game, punting three times with an average of 42 yards, before being released on 29 October. He was replaced by Glenn Pakulak.[12]

Arizona Cardinals[edit]

Graham was signed by the Arizona Cardinals on 1 December 2008 after the team released punter, Dirk Johnson; this was the second time that Johnson had been replaced by an Australian punter. In the NFC Championship game that year, Graham's Cardinals played the Philadelphia Eagles, whose punter, Saverio Rocca, also was an ex-Aussie Rules player from North Melbourne. This guaranteed that one of the two would be the first Australian to play in a Super Bowl. The Cardinals' victory presented that honour to Graham.[13] The Cardinals released Graham on 2 September 2011, before the start of the season. But they re-signed him on 5 October;[14] he was released again on 11 October, after one game covering for the injured Dave Zastudil.

Detroit Lions[edit]

On 15 November 2011, Graham signed with the Detroit Lions, replacing Robert Malone. Malone had played only one game after replacing the injured Ryan Donahue. During the 2012 preseason, Graham beat out Donahue for the starting job. On 25 September 2012, Graham was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list. Nick Harris was signed to replace Graham for the remainder of the season.[15] He was released with an injury settlement later that season.

International career[edit]

In 2011 with the NFL Lockout looming, Graham announced his intention to play for the Australian National team in the 2011 IFAF World Cup, the official international American Football championship tournament. Later, he officially was added to the roster as the country's starting punter.[16]

Personal life and family[edit]

Graham and his wife, Katie, have two daughters, Sophie and Rosie, and one son, Jack.[17]

While playing for the Cats, Graham attended Deakin University in Geelong.

Graham's father and his younger brother, Sam, attended Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Florida, to watch him when he played for the Arizona Cardinals.[18]

Graham's mother, Helen, died from cancer on 21 April 2009.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Howard, Dylan (26 January 2009). "Ben Graham's amazing punt pays off". Geelong Advertiser. Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  2. ^ "Ben Graham loses his mother". 22 April 2009. 
  3. ^ Ben Graham is No.1 at his old club – Local News – Geelong, VIC, Australia. Geelongadvertiser.com.au (2009-03-17). Retrieved on 2012-01-02.
  4. ^ Leopold Football Netball Club. leopoldlions.com.au
  5. ^ "AFL/VFL Players". Leopold Football Club. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c Hutchison, Craig (21 May 2006). "Benny and the Jets take $7m punt". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 April 2009. 
  7. ^ a b Crouse, Karen (24 June 2005). "A Star in Australia, Graham Is Seeking a Role With the Jets". New York Times. Retrieved 5 April 2009. 
  8. ^ Waszak, Dennis Jnr (17 September 2008). "Jets kick out Aussie Ben Graham". news.com.au. Retrieved 5 April 2009. 
  9. ^ "Graham elected a NY Jets Captain" worldfootynews.com 11 September 2006. URL Accessed 11 September 2006.
  10. ^ Jets re-sign punter Graham
  11. ^ Ben Graham cut by Jets - again
  12. ^ "Ben Graham sacked again". Courier Mail. 29 October 2008. Retrieved 6 April 2009. 
  13. ^ ABC News(2009). Graham set to become first Aussie to play in Super Bowl. Retrieved 19 January 2009.
  14. ^ "Cards re-sign punter Ben Graham". ESPN.com. 5 October 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  15. ^ http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120925/SPORTS0101/209250436#ixzz27ZvHbsnE
  16. ^ Ben Graham takes Outback to Australia. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  17. ^ Arizona Cardinals bio. Azcardinals.com. Retrieved on 2012-01-02.
  18. ^ "Graham's dream punted as Pittsburgh steal a memorable victory". The Sydney Morning Herald. 3 February 2009. 
  19. ^ Tucker, Rebecca (22 April 2009). "Ben Graham's mother loses battle with cancer". 

External links[edit]

American football[edit]

Australian rules[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Leigh Colbert
Geelong Football Club captain
2000–2002
Succeeded by
Steven King
Preceded by
Micah Knorr
New York Jets punter
2005–2008
Succeeded by
Reggie Hodges
Preceded by
Steve Weatherford
New Orleans Saints punter
2008
Succeeded by
Glenn Pakulak
Preceded by
Dirk Johnson
Arizona Cardinals punter
2008–2010
Succeeded by
Dave Zastudil
Preceded by
Dave Zastudil
Arizona Cardinals punter
2011
Succeeded by
Dave Zastudil
Awards
Preceded by
Peter Riccardi
Carji Greeves Medal
1999
Succeeded by
Steven King