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Ex-NRL star Holmes follows his NFL dream

IMG coaches have devised a plan to make Valentine Holmes faster and stronger to prepare him for an NFL career.

Ex-NRL star Holmes follows his NFL dream

IMG coaches have devised a plan to make Valentine Holmes faster and stronger to prepare him for an NFL career.

VALENTINE HOLMES of the Kangaroos is tackled during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Final between the Australian Kangaroos and England at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia.
VALENTINE HOLMES of the Kangaroos is tackled during the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Final between the Australian Kangaroos and England at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia. Picture:Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Larry Kirksey guided the greatest wide-receiver in NFL history, Jerry Rice, to a record-breaking 1848 receiving yards and 122 receptions in 1995 for the San Francisco 49ers.

He was also in charge of overseeing a young Emmitt Smith at the University of Florida before he became the NFL's all-time leading rusher.


The veteran coach has a new project.

Kirksey is overseeing Valentine Holmes's transformation at the IMG Academy in Florida from a Cronulla Sharks, Queensland and Australian rugby league backline star into an NFL wide-receiver, running back and returner.

After just two weeks with the raw Holmes , Kirksey likes what he sees.

"His hands are smooth," Kirksey, after putting Holmes, clad in a helmet and pads, through a two-hour workout at IMG, told AAP.

"Valentine catches the football real easy and has some good foot quickness.

"He's tough mentally too."

Holmes quit the Sharks and a new $5 million contract last year to pursue an NFL career and is one of seven international players selected for the NFL's Pathway Program.

It involves a 12-week intensive American football crash course at IMG with elite coaches including Kirksey, with successful graduates drafted by an NFL team, signed as a free agent or placed on a team's practice squad.

Australian giant Jordan Mailata was picked up by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles last year after entering the Pathway Program.

Holmes is confident an NFL team will sign him.

The 23-year-old is loving Florida and the challenge of learning a new sport in just three months.

Holmes donned American football shoulder pads for the first time during a workout on Thursday.

"Yeah, I'm pretty confident," Holmes, asked if he believed he would be signed by an NFL team, said.

"I wouldn't have sacrificed everything if I wasn't that confident in myself and what I can do."

NRL fans have watched Holmes' blistering speed, but IMG's coaches say he will be faster and stronger by the time he completes the program.

"That's what they love here in the US - speed and strength - and short, explosive sprints are pretty much all we have been doing in the gym and out here on the fields," Holmes said.

Holmes' is living in a dorm on the IMG campus.

His days start at 7am and involve gym and outdoor workouts, classroom sessions and end late at night in bed attempting to consume the playbook and an iPad that is constantly updated with plays.

Holmes said he understood why Jarryd Hayne would tuck a cheat sheet in his pants during 49ers workouts.

"I might have to do that," he laughed.

NFL players often get inferior contracts compared to NBA and MLB players because often their deals are not guaranteed.

If they are cut, teams may not have to payout the entire contract.

Kirksey understands why Holmes would walk away from a $5 million guaranteed from the Sharks in Australia for a chance that might not lead to an NFL contract.

"You can't say he could be doing this for nothing because this is a dream," Kirksey said.

"He has a goal to prove he can play in this league and sometimes you have to follow your dreams."

AAP


AAP




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