It was the battle of Ohio to open week 2 of the NFL season as the Browns hosted Joe Burrow and the Bengals. This match up was about much more than who would come out on top.
Valentine Holmes’ bold decision to walk away from the NRL and a new $5 million Cronulla contract is about to face a crucial test when scouts from all 32 NFL teams put him under a microscope.
A bulked up Holmes and six other elite international athletes selected for the NFL’s International Pathway Program will run the 40-yard dash and perform drills to show their speed and agility during an on-field workout in Florida on Monday (Tuesday AEDT).
They will also be measured and undergo face-to-face interviews with scouts or team representatives.
The “Pro Day” will be held at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ $US32 million air-conditioned indoor training facility and if Holmes impresses, an NFL team could swoop in and sign him to a free agent contract.
“I’m confident in myself,” Holmes told AAP in a recent interview.
Holmes has spent the past three months with the other Pathway players at the IMG Academy in Florida getting a crash course in American football.
The former NRL, Queensland and Australian rugby league backline star has stacked on 3kg of muscle, lost body fat and followed a weight room regime focused on short bursts of explosive power.
The 40-yard dash is a benchmark test for NFL hopefuls, particularly a speedster like Holmes who has been pencilled in as a running back, wide-receiver and returner.
“This sport is based more on speed in the one to 40 yard range so all of the training and routes we run have been focused on that,” Holmes said.
“There’s also been a lot of work in the weight room with jump squats and anything to do with exploding and jumping off the ground, vertical jumps.”
Holmes, former British Lions rugby try-scoring whiz Christian Wade and Brazilian judo champion Durval Neto are among the seven athletes selected for this year’s Pathway Program.
If they are not signed as free agents they will likely be assigned to an NFL team’s non-playing practice squad.
This year NFL teams in the AFC East division – the Super Bowl champion Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets – will receive the Pathway players for their practice squads.
Former South Sydney Rabbitohs junior giant Jordan Mailata was in the Pathway program at IMG last year.
His size, speed and work ethic were so impressive the Philadelphia Eagles selected him in the NFL Draft.