Ben Graham Super Bowl

Ben Graham made history in the 2009 Super Bowl. Photo: Arizona Cardinals - Twitter

In February 2009, former Geelong captain Ben Graham made history by becoming the first Australian to represent the nation in the NFL Super Bowl.

It’s the pinnacle of American sports, proving every year to be the biggest single sporting event in the world.

Millions around the world tune in annually – from fanatics of competing teams, fans of the sport or people watching just for the over-the-top, million dollar commercials.

It is the envy of every single sporting league around the world. The pageantry, the fandom, the overall spectacle; the Super Bowl stops a nation.  

Australians have never had much to do with the big game. Each year tens of thousands take Monday morning off to bask in the spectacle, but as a country we haven’t had much of a personal connection.

However, that all changed when Super Bowl XLIII rolled around. 

In 2009, 70,774 NFL fans packed into Tampa Florida’s Raymond James Stadium to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers battle the Arizona Cardinals.

With six minutes and 26 seconds left in the first quarter, an Australian was etched into the annals of both Australian and American sporting history. With the Cardinals getting ready to punt the ball away legendary commentator Al Michaels announces to the world “Ben Graham – the first Aussie to ever play in a Super Bowl”.

Ben Graham was the first Australian to play in the Super Bowl. Photo: Arizona Cardinals – Twitter

Born in Geelong, Victoria, Ben Graham was no stranger to big games in front of raucous crowds.

A former Australian Rules star taken with Pick 40 by the Geelong Cats in the 1992 draft, Graham would go on to have quite the career in the AFL. He played 219 games, kick 145 goals, and captained the Cats from 2000 to 2002, culminating in his induction into the Geelong Hall of Fame in 2001.

In terms of crowd size no game he has ever participated in – including Super Bowl XLIII – comes close to the 1995 AFL Grand Final. The Melbourne Cricket Ground saw 93,670 fans pack the rafters to witness the Cats take on the Carlton Blues.

Unfortunately for Graham it was a losing effort as the Blues lifted the Premiership Cup, winning by 61 points.

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Graham’s career could have taken a much different path; he could have landed in the NFL much earlier than when he eventually arrived in 2005.

The New York Jets approached him in 1997 to join their franchise, however Ben chose to stay in the AFL and enjoyed a decorated career thereafter.

The road leading up to Super Bowl XLIII wasn’t always smooth sailing with the back-end of 2008 proving to be quite chaotic as his career and future in the NFL was up in the air.

In September, Graham was released from the Jets, picked up by the New Orleans Saints in October, and released again only nine days later.

This brought the Arizona Cardinals into the fold who signed him in December where he would go on to serve them for three seasons. 

His path eventually led him to February, 2009 – Super Bowl XLIII.

Unfortunately for Graham it would end the same as the 1995 Grand Final did with a loss. However, this time around in a big game Ben was part of a more competitive effort.

The Cardinals were leading with 5 minutes to go in the fourth quarter before the Steelers took the lead with only 35 seconds left giving them a 27-23 win.

Graham’s game as a whole is something he can be forever proud of, even if he didn’t end the game lifting the Lombardi trophy. 

His five punts went for a total of 180 yards, with three falling inside the 20-yard line. These will live forever in the boxscore of Super Bowl XLIII. The only Australian to ever take part in the Super Bowl did his country incredibly proud, showing the true spirit of our country on the biggest sporting stage of them all. 

Graham went on to have quite the career before retiring in 2012.

In 99 games he would finish with a total of 468 punts totalling 20,661 yards with an average of 44.2 yards per punt. In 2009 he tied Andy Lee’s record at the time of 42 punts inside the 20 in a single season.

The determination, hunger and spirit of Ben Graham cannot be understated. His performances in the NFL paved the way for current-day Australian punters to make their mark in the United States.

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