Cardinals' Graham proud to be first
The Australian talks to Al Jazeera about his pride and excitement in Super Bowl week.
Last Modified: 29 Jan 2009 16:37 GMT

Ben Graham in action for the Cardinals [EPA]
Eight weeks ago, the Arizona Cardinals' Ben Graham was sitting on his couch at home in New Jersey wondering if he would play in the NFL again.

He had just been cut by the New Orleans Saints after just eight days with the club when the phone rang.

"Please be the Arizona Cardinals!" his wife declared as they went for the phone and, somewhat strangely, it was.

The 35 year old is now enjoying the Florida sun and soaking up the atmosphere as the first Australian to ever play in a Super Bowl.

"I couldn’t be happier right now, for the last eight weeks the organisation has been fantastic and I have felt in our last three playoff wins that I have contributed to the result which is important for me personally," the former AFL player with the Geelong Cats said.

"I still can't believe it, it is still amazing to me. This is the ultimate, it is the reason we play team sport.

"I'm proud to be the first Australian to play in the Super Bowl and to follow the other Australians that have played in this league and represent my country."

Week to week

Graham is refusing to bank too much on his trip to the Super Bowl shoring up a long term future with the club, given the way he was dispatched from the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints at short notice.

"In many ways I'm just trying to treat this as just another game. I consider the pressure of playing to be a privilege as I could just as easily be sitting at home not playing and not having any pressure on me."

"After the experience with the Jets, I can only really take things week by week."

After three seasons with the Jets the club waived Graham on September 16, 2008, but then quickly re-signed him on September 22 due to an injury to his replacement  Reggie Hodges. However, Graham was released again on September 29.

Harsh lessons

His experience at New Orleans then taught him some more tough lessons about the harsh realities of professional sport.

On October 20, Graham received a phone call from the New Orleans Saints informing him there was a first class ticket to London for him at the airport as the side was preparing for its match against the San Diego Chargers in the English capital.

"I then arrived and met my new teammates and worked out. The coaching staff was great and we played the match in London," he recalled.

Upon return though things didn't work as so well.

"But we then got back on the Tuesday and the kicker and I were both released."

With his wife hoping to be as close to the west coast of the USA as possible to assist with flights back to Australia and with a climate and lifestyle similar to that of their homeland, Graham was still treating his first trip to Arizona as a business trip.

"I packed some cleats and some underwear and off I went," he said.

"Thankfully, it worked out, I signed and here I am."

Novelty value

Of course being an Australian meant he still meant he had to deal with being something of a novelty to his new teammates.

"Yes, they all ask about Vegemite. I actually didn't take any with me to Arizona but I did have some sent over," he said with a laugh.

"The Americans must give it a go, it is a staple of the Australian diet."

He also received plenty of questions when his teammates learnt of his sporting achievements back in Australia.

"Once they found me on Youtube, they did pay me out about the tight singlets we would wear and the little shorts we played in, but I’m very proud of my AFL career."

After playing 219 games for Geelong in Australia Graham took his wife and two young children to the USA to try something new and see the "wider world".

"I was something I didn't want to look back and regret I hadn't done, so we all decided to go for it."

His first task was to attend a punting camp, where we learnt as much as he could in two weeks, as he admitted "I'd only kicked an American football for fun before 2005."

From there he won a short contract with the New York Jets, but now he is days away from playing in the biggest sporting event on the American calendar.

But the well spoken Australian also harbours an ambition which means we doesn't want this to be a glorious but final chapter in his career.

"I am really happy to be here, but I want to be here for as long as possible."

Al Jazeera
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