Brutal reality behind Holmes’ NFL exit
A month or so ago, Valentine Holmes was at the New York Jets' practice facility chatting about his NFL adventure.
The 24-year-old spoke about his desire to break into the Jets' 53-man roster and how he and wife Natalia were loving life in one of the world's great cities.
Holmes was adamant he would stay with the Jets until the end of the season and then - and only then - decide whether to stick with the NFL or return to Australia and a multimillion-dollar NRL contract.
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"I want to be here," Holmes told AAP during last month's wide-ranging interview.
With the inconsistent Jets next to no chance of making the playoffs their likely season finale will be December 29 against Buffalo Bills.
Holmes didn't stick to his deadline and pulled the pin early.
The Jets and Holmes announced on Saturday his American adventure was over, and he would be returning to Australia to discuss the "next steps" of his career with his agent and family.
On Sunday it was confirmed he would be an NRL player once again, signing a six-year deal with the North Queensland Cowboys worth a reported $5.7 million
Holmes truly enjoyed his NFL stint and was grateful for the opportunity, but you could sense in that conversation last month the Jets' decision to leave him on their practice squad was not good enough for a star athlete used to playing games on Sundays.
Holmes won an NRL premiership with Cronulla and was a fixture in Queensland and Australia representative sides.
As a member of the Jets' practice squad Holmes was barred from travelling with the team for away games.
He was allowed to attend Jets' home games, which he enthusiastically did, but joked how faced with the same scenario in the NRL he would be a no-show.
"I would never envision myself doing that if I was back playing rugby league," Holmes said.
The clearest indication Holmes would return to Australia was when he was asked if he was willing to spend a second NFL season on the practice squad.
Would he be OK with not playing regular season games for a second-straight year?
Could he live with earning about $US136,000 ($A176,000) on the practice squad again when he could be making $A1million-plus a season in the NRL? Holmes paused.
"It is a lot different to what I'm used to," he replied.
Holmes then pointed to the financial hole NFL players face when their season ends and before the next season starts.
"You get paid during the season and you don't get paid in the off-season," Holmes said.
"That's a bit difficult and plays a part in the decision I will make."
His failure to make the Jets' 53-man roster and decision to quit his American sojourn should be a warning to other NRL and elite rugby union players contemplating an NFL stint.
It is a monumental task to not only pick up the complexities of the NFL, but also gain the confidence of head coaches and co-ordinators who live with fragile job security.
Another Australian graduate of the NFL International Pathway program, giant-sized former South Sydney Rabbitohs' junior Jordan Mailata, has been with the Philadelphia Eagles for two seasons and is yet to play a regular season game.
The Jets never gave Holmes a legitimate chance to impress.
Like Jarryd Hayne with the San Francisco 49ers in 2015, Holmes knew his best chance to make the game-day roster was to prove himself on special teams as a punt/kick returner and also offer utility value as a running back or wide-receiver.
It was in the 49ers' pre-season where Hayne proved how dangerous he was with the ball in his hands and space to move.
Holmes was the sixth and last running back option in the Jets' four pre-season games and found himself entering the game in the final minutes.
He managed eight catches for 85 yards, highlighted by a 27-yard reception in the pre-season finale against Philadelphia.
Holmes had just one punt return opportunity and his 11-yard return was erased after teammate Deonte Thompson was penalised for holding.
One kick return chance for Holmes resulted in a 21-yard gain.
The Townsville-born Holmes was always tipped to play for his home town North Queensland when his American adventure ended, a move that was confirmed on Sunday.