Graham, Ben

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Ben Graham
Ben Graham was an Aussie punter for the New York Jets from 2005 until 2006.


Background and AFL Career

Born 2 November 1973, in Leopold, Victoria, Australia, Graham was recruited from the Geelong U19s with 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, 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), 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.

Ben Graham for stamp collectors?
Graham went on to play 219 games for the Geelong Football Club in the Australian Football League from 1993 to 2004. He captained the side from 2000 to 2002, and won the club's Best and Fairest award (the Carji Greeves Medal) in 1999. While playing for the Cats, Graham attended Deakin University in Geelong. He also played in the 1999 International Seires against a bunch of Gaelic football players.

NFL Career

As a Jet

Ben Graham punts

In 2004 Graham surprised many in Australia when he retired from Australian rules football to pursue a career as a punter in the NFL. He had first been approached by the Jets in 1997 to try out as a punter, but decided to stay in the AFL. Graham was signed to a short-term contract by the Jets in January [2005]]. Graham 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.

On 22 May 2006, the Jets signed Graham to a six-year contract worth US$5.17 million. 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 professional sports leagues. Graham also helped introduce the drop punt—a style of kicking prevalent in Australian rules football—which improves kicking efficiency and is said to be a new introduction to the game of American football.

The Jets waived Graham on September 16, 2008 because of inconsistent play following a disappointing 2007, but quickly re-signed him on September 22 due to an injury to his replacement Reggie Hodges. Graham was released again on September 29.

After the Jets

On October 20, 2008, Graham signed with the New Orleans Saints. The team had released incumbent punter Steve Weatherford earlier in the week. He played in just one game, which he had just three punts with a long of 44-yards. And on October 28, 2008, he was released by the Saints, just 8 days after he was signed.

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