We Are Interested In An Australian Star?

Angry Pope

All Raider
Feb 2, 2006
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This article makes it appear so....

Switch a reality for Aker

Andrew Hamilton

May 20, 2006

"SHOW me the money" – the line made famous in the sports movie Jerry Maguire – could soon be repeated by the AFL's leading showman Jason Akermanis.

Akermanis's career has been full of highlights and headlines but the latest development could top them all – a switch to the NFL.

The Brownlow Medallist last night confirmed he'd had informal contact with an American NFL club.

Akermanis refused to discuss details or the name of the club, but The Courier-Mail understands it is the New York Jets, the struggling club where former Geelong star Ben Graham plays.

And coach Eric Mangini has strong links to Australia. He spent time studying in Melbourne where the idea of converting AFL players into gridiron recruits first flickered.

The Oakland Raiders and New York Giants are also known to have scouts in Australia.

If you think Akermanis pushes the boundaries in the AFL, he would have to lift a notch in the US. In the NFL he'd be just one of the crowd.

He would be another flamboyant trash talking showman who just so happens to possess explosive pace and a safe pair of hands, which are the key attributes of a wide receiver.

Sound a bit far fetched?

The statistics make interesting reading.

Akermanis weighs 83kg and is 177cm tall. It sounds a bit small for the NFL, but the best performed wide receiver in the game last year was Steve Smith, of the Carolina Panthers, who stacks up at 175cm and 83kg.

And Smith is the norm, not the exception, especially among the elite. Four of the the top 10 wide receivers in last year's competition are an equivalent height and weight to Akermanis.

Patriot Deion Branch, Santana Moss of the Redskins and team mate Antwaan Randle El are all from the same mould – explosive off the mark and safe under the ball.

Akermanis, who attended Nudgee College on an athletics scholarship, claims a personal best over 100m of a sizzling 10.8.

Even in the more robust position of running back, some of the league's best are a similar height to the Lions midfielder, although the men who make the most yards are heavier.

Seattle's Shaun Alexander who set the league record for yards rushed is 180cm and 100kg while Steeler Willie Parker is 180cm and 94kg.

But it's not just his size and the fact he can catch a ball, probably as good as any footballer in the US, that makes Akermanis the prototype wide receiver – it is also his colourful personality.

Wide receivers are the showmen.

In the top grossing Tom Cruise movie Jerry Maguire, Cuba Gooding Jnr's abbrasive character Rod Tidwell was a wide receiver.

In real life they're no less controversial.

Randy Moss is a blue chip NFL player. The Oakland Raider left the Minnesota Vikings in controversial circumstances after mooning the crowd after one of his many touchdowns in protest at Green Bay Packers fans.

Terrell Owens, the who's ability to attract headlines makes Akermanis appear almost camera shy, left the Philadelphia Eagles after falling out with his team mates and is now plying his trade for the Dallas Cowboys.

It's not the first time Akermanis has considered a move to another code.

He flirted with rugby union several years ago, shocking most of the Lions fans who had watched him claim the Brownlow Medal and the first of three premierships with the club.

But that has been Akermanis' style.

It's not the first time Akermanis has considered a move to another code.

He flirted with rugby union several years ago, shocking most of the Lions fans who had watched him claim the Brownlow Medal and the first of three premierships with the club.

But that has been Akermanis' style.

The suggestion of a switch to the NFL doesn't come without it's obvious questions.

He is not young in football terms and he hasn't played the game before, but the Jets are still interested. The club, which struggled last season after reaching the play-offs the previous year, had success adapting Graham to the big time.

But he plays as a punt kicker, which is a completely different challenge than the one that would await Akermanis.

Graham went to the US without a guaranteed contract but forced his way into the NFL, whose best players earn millions of dollars each season.

Akermanis can't command that much in the AFL, where he has been a year-in, year-out star for Brisbane.

But he has endured his most testing year in 2006, including publicised differences with coach Leigh Matthews.

He was dropped to reserve grade last weekend, prompting suggestions he would quit Brisbane at the end of the season.

But his fortunes rose last night when he was included in the Lions' team for tomorrow's clash with Port Adelaide at AAMI Stadium.

Brisbane faces a crucial clash.
Here is another story on our interest in this player...

Mason wants to follow NFL dream

By James Hooper
June 9, 2006

WILLIE Mason has always been a showman. The bigger the occasion, the greater the challenge, the better the New South Wales Origin enforcer performs.

But Mason boldly underlined the greatest challenge in his elite sporting career last night, revealing a desire to feature on the biggest stage in US sport: the National Football League.

MainGame can reveal that Mason's management team has sent a video highlights tape including footage of the forwards' devastating try in Origin I to numerous NFL teams.

Despite having inked a four-year deal with the Bulldogs until the end of 2009 last year, Mason is prepared to consider walking away from the Belmore club.

Six NFL clubs - Oakland Raiders, San Fransisco 49ers, New York Jets, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers - are expected to hold talks with Mason's agent, Greg Keenan, in the US over the next fortnight.

And the last Australian export to star in the NFL's front line, Colin Scotts, has predicted Mason's essential combination of size, power, speed, balance and willingness is the perfect recipe for success in American football.

But for Mason, the reasoning is much simpler.

The challenge of cutting it in the multi-million-dollar elite echelon of US professional sport, where 130 million people watch the Super Bowl each year, is what dazzles.

"It would be an unbelievable challenge and it would be a massive stage like nothing I've ever experienced," Mason said.
"I've always wondered when I've watched the NFL if I was born in the States how good I'd go at it.

"There'd be heaps to learn, but for me that's half the challenge, I just reckon the whole experience would be awesome."

Former St Louis Cardinals defensive end Scotts has volunteered to assist Mason by helping to open doors to some of the NFL's top teams.

Scotts has earmarked the position of offensive right tackle as perfect, meaning Mason would stand in the front line of defence for the team holding the ball and protect the quarterback, running backs and wide receivers.

"Willie is super quick for a big man and, in terms of balance, he's got beautiful co-ordination for a man of his size," Scotts said.

"He's also got those huge long arms that scouts look for in the NFL, big hands to go with them and from the look of his statistics he's a powerful man.

"I know a good friend of mine in Hawaii who knows every NFL team so he can open up doors for him to get in somewhere.

"I'd be fascinated to see another Aussie get over there and have a go and Willie Mason has got that tough temperament to make a fist of it.

"Welcome to the most intense, competitive, complex game in the world; Willie is still young enough, so why not have a go?"

MainGame understands Raiders head of professional recruitment Ed Dodds was immediately impressed when informed of Mason's statistics.

"He's how big? And he runs that quick. Yeah, of course we'd be interested in having a look at him," Dodds said.

And Jets Director of Professional Scouting Brendon Prophett responded: "Wow. I bet he could run over a few cats."

The dossier on Mason reads: running 20m in 2.76sec, 40m in 4.89sec; bench pressing 170kg for one repetition and leg squatting 220kg.

Mason's agent Keenan denied arranging meetings with NFL clubs in the next fortnight, but MainGame understands they have been scheduled.

"I'll be in the US on business in the next fortnight but I'm not going to say what sort of business I'm there on," Keenan said.

If Mason opted to depart the Bulldogs kennel, it would mean severing the final three seasons of a $1.6 million contract.

While it would hurt leaving the teammates with whom he won a premiership in 2004, and the club to which he has shown tremendous loyalty for the past seven seasons, it's a sacrifice Mason is willing to make.

Again, the reasoning is simple. In terms of rugby league milestones there is little left for Mason to conquer;

HE collected the Clive Churchill medal as the best player on the field in the Bulldogs' 2004 premiership triumph over Sydney Roosters.

HE has played 17 Tests for Australia since debuting for the Kangaroos in 2002.

HE has made five Origin appearances, collecting man-of-the-match honours in Origin I this year.
Mason has nominated Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens as his favourite NFL player, saying: "He's the guy in the NFL I reckon rocks."

In the NFL, each team has a salary cap of $102 million to spend on playing talent per year - more than 25 times the $4 million beneath which NRL teams must balance their 25 top-line players next season.

Five Australians have previously qualified to star in the NFL: Scotts, Darren Bennett, Ben Graham, Mat McBriar and Colin Ridgeway.

But only Scotts graduated for the rough and tumble arena of the NFL front line, making it as a defensive end and defensive tackle for St Louis Cardinals, Phoenix Cardinals and Houston Oilers after being drafted from the University of Hawaii in 1987.

The other Australian exports used AFL backgrounds to make it as punters, whose job is just to kick the ball.

Despite Scott's glowing endorsement of Mason, the last rugby league forward to try his luck on an American football scholarship was cautious about the daring switch of codes.

Retired Kangaroos, NSW and Balmain Tigers forward Paul Sironen, who won a scholarship to the University of Hawaii in 1984, believes Mason has a huge mountain in front of him, but by no means an impossible one.

"Getting into a whole new code of football, it obviously looks exciting and lucrative with all the hype surrounding it but it's a lot of learning too," Sironen said.

"Tight end is a pretty good position and Willie would have all the skills to handle that - but the hardest part would be the learning curve.

"It's a pretty hard learning curve, it would take him at least 12 months to get a handle on things and fit in with it."

In seven years in the NRL, Willie Mason has distinguished himself as a special talent.

If ever there was a player suited to the brash, flash, showmanship of American football, Mason is the man. Bring on the bling.
Here is yet more info on the guy....

Mason would star in NFL, says coach

June 10, 2006

THE coach of the Australian gridiron team last night endorsed Willie Mason as an NFL star-in-the-making, offering to tutor the NSW enforcer in the finer points of American football.

The Daily Telegraph yesterday

revealed Mason's agent Greg Keenan was understood to be in the US for talks with the Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers over the next fortnight.

Paul Manera, the second Australian to graduate from the University of Hawaii after Colin Scotts, has pledged to educate Mason with a crash course on NFL rules after learning of the Blues forward's interest in the code.

"Size-wise Willie is a great size to play tight end," Manera said.

"He would obviously have to learn how to block and then also how to run routes.

"What he did in State of Origin when he ran over those three people was awesome.

"What it will come down to is his ability to understand the game and learn the techniques of his position. But don't get me wrong, I'm sure he can do that.

"Moving from rugby league to gridiron, one being an aerobic sport and the other being an anaerobic, Willie would put on 15 kilograms fairly easily with his frame.

"Playing offence is far more technical than playing defence in the NFL."

A typically cool Mason yesterday confirmed his interest in the US phenomenon, labelling the NFL an "exciting" game.

Queried over what position would best suit him, Mason joked: "I don't know, I don't know that much about the game but there's that much trash- talk and garbage going on in the game it might be my sort of style, I'm pretty stoked by the fact they'd even look at me."

The Saturday Daily Telegraph understands Mason's agent will meet with six NFL clubs over the next fortnight.

It is also understood a video highlights package of Mason, including his blockbusting try from State of Origin I, has been distributed to NFL teams.

"It's something I would look at if it came across. There's a couple of teams over there that approached my manager," Mason said.

"If he came back with five offers of course I've got to look at it. The game does interest me, I'm not going to lie.

"It's an exciting game, if there were offers it would be hard to knock it on the head. But right now I'm concentrating on the game next Wednesday."

Mason will be the NSW pack's central figure when the Blues travel to Brisbane to meet Queensland in State of Origin II next Wednesday.

Coach of the Australian gridiron outfit Manera suggested Mason also had the potential to make it on the NFL's front line as a defensive end.

"What his job would be is to pass rush the quarterback when the quarterback passes the ball and obviously close down lanes when the running back is running with the ball," Manera said.
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