Rugby Aussie rugby league star Holmes tackling NFL dream with Jets

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Valentine Holmes was as massive a star in Australia as he could have ever imagined.

The standout winger and fullback for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks of the National Rugby League was recognized wherever he went, with die-hard fans donning his team’s jersey and wide-eyed youngsters wanting to play just like him.

And then, Holmes stunningly left it all behind.

He headed to the United States for a chance to play American football in the NFL, a decision that angered some of those same fans who once cheered him. But Holmes needed to tackle his dream — no matter what everyone else thought.

“I just felt like I wanted to test myself as a person and an athlete,” the 24-year-old Holmes told The Associated Press. “I wasn’t really thinking about what I was giving up, I guess. It was just that I wanted to chase more.”

Holmes is in training camp with the New York Jets competing for a roster spot as a running back, wide receiver and return specialist.

He’s here — 10,000 miles from home — as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program. This summer, all four AFC East teams — the Jets, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots — can carry an international player in camp. It’s a long shot, but players can earn a place on the 53-man active roster. If they don’t, they are eligible for a practice squad exemption, meaning they wouldn’t count against the team’s allotment of 10 non-active roster players during the regular season.

Holmes first worked out for NFL scouts in Los Angel

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