Detroit Lions punter Ben Graham during 2012 training camp
|No. 7, 5, 2|
|Born:||2 November 1973|
Geelong, Victoria, Australia
|Height:||6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)|
|Weight:||235 lb (107 kg)|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Benjamin James Graham (born 2 November 1973) is an Australian former professional Australian rules footballer turned professional American football punter of the National Football League, and is current Strategic Operations Manager of the Western Bulldogs.
Graham's 219 game Australian Rules career was played exclusively at the Geelong Football Club in the Australian Football League between 1993 and 2004. As an Aussie Rules player, Graham was long noted for his ability to kick extraordinarily long distances with accuracy (in particular his expertise at the torpedo punt). This is one of the key reasons that he was believed to have potential as a professional NFL punter.
He is the only player to be named a captain of both an AFL and NFL side. During his career he has played in the biggest game in two codes, the AFL Grand Final (1995 AFL Grand Final) and the Super Bowl (Super Bowl XLIII). He was the first Australian to have played in a Super Bowl.
Ben Graham grew up in Leopold, Victoria, and began playing Aussie Rules at a young age for the local Leopold Football Club in the Bellarine Football League where his father was former premiership player and coach.
Ben's football ability was obvious from an early age, and he was selected by the Geelong U19s (now Geelong Falcons) where he was first identified by AFL talent scouts.
|Full name||Benjamin James Graham|
|Original team(s)||Leopold / Geelong U19|
40th overall, 1992 pre-season |
|Height||196 cm (6 ft 5 in)|
|Weight||98 kg (216 lb)|
|Position(s)||Centre half-forward / Centre half-back|
|Sources: AFL Tables, AustralianFootball.com|
Graham was recruited by Geelong at 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. Against Port Adelaide in Round 19, 1999, when Graham was bringing the ball back in from play, he booted the ball just over 85 metres, which was past the centre circle of Simonds Stadium.
Graham played in Geelong's 1995 AFL Grand Final loss to Carlton. For the year, he was named most improved player at Geelong.
He following his 1999 season with another solid season in 2000, finishing runner up in the best & fairest in a year in which he was also bestowed the honour of the club captaincy.
In 2001, he was inducted into the Geelong Football Club Hall of Fame and granted life membership.
Graham retained the club captaincy until the end of 2002.
In 2004, he surprised many in Australia when he quit Australian rules football and left for the United States to pursue a career as a punter in the National Football League, where he would ultimately be paid many times more than he would have earned in Australia and extended his playing career by many years.
Graham was signed to a short-term contract by the New York Jets in January 2005. He 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 different professional sports leagues. Graham also used the Australian drop punt--a style of kicking prevalent in Australian rules football first introduced in 1997 to the NFL by fellow Australian Darren Bennett--which improves kicking efficiency and is said to be a new introduction to the game of American football.
The Jets waived Graham on 16 September 2008, but he did not miss a game: they quickly re-signed him on 22 September due to a minor injury to his replacement Reggie Hodges. Graham was released again on 29 September after Hodges recovered.
On 20 October 2008, Graham signed with the New Orleans Saints to play a game in London. The team had released incumbent punter Steve Weatherford earlier in the week due to travel arrangement issues. He played just the one game, punting three times with an average of 42 yards, before being released on 29 October. He was replaced by Glenn Pakulak.
Graham was signed by the Arizona Cardinals on 1 December 2008 after the team released punter, Dirk Johnson; this was the second time that Johnson had been replaced by an Australian punter. In the NFC Championship game that year, Graham's Cardinals played the Philadelphia Eagles, whose punter, Saverio Rocca, also was an ex-Aussie Rules player from North Melbourne. This guaranteed that one of the two would be the first Australian to play in a Super Bowl. The Cardinals' victory presented that honour to Graham. The Cardinals released Graham on 2 September 2011, before the start of the season. But they re-signed him on 5 October; he was released again on 11 October, after one game covering for the injured Dave Zastudil.
On 15 November 2011, Graham signed with the Detroit Lions, replacing Robert Malone. Malone had played only one game after replacing the injured Ryan Donahue. During the 2012 preseason, Graham beat out Donahue for the starting job. On 25 September 2012, Graham was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list. Nick Harris was signed to replace Graham for the remainder of the season. He was released with an injury settlement later that season.
In 2011 with the NFL Lockout looming, Graham announced his intention to play for the Australian National team in the 2011 IFAF World Cup, the official international American Football championship tournament. Later, he officially was added to the roster as the country's starting punter.
Graham and his wife, Katie, have two daughters, Sophie and Rosie, and one son, Jack.
While playing for the Cats, Graham attended Deakin University in Geelong.
Graham's father and his younger brother, Sam, attended Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa, Florida, to watch him when he played for the Arizona Cardinals.
Graham's mother, Helen, died from cancer on 21 April 2009.
| New York Jets punter
| New Orleans Saints punter
| Arizona Cardinals punter
| Arizona Cardinals punter