Joel Wilkinson, Former AFL Player, to Cardinals: Contract Details, Reaction

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2016

The roof to University of Phoenix Stadium is open during the first half of an NFL  football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

The Arizona Cardinals are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with Joel Wilkinson, a former Australian Rules Football player.   

Per Darren Urban of the team's official website, the Cardinals signed Wilkinson on Tuesday. He is expected to play cornerback in the NFL

Wilkinson spoke with the Cardinals' website about his move to the NFL:

Arizona Cardinals @AZCardinals

EXCLUSIVE: Hear from Joel Wilkinson, former Aussie rules player turned #AZCardinals CB. 🎥 https://t.co/Qp7qrXOKwf https://t.co/ZPH6LVMw92

Just 24 years old, Wilkinson retired from the Australian Rules league in July 2015 to pursue a career in the NFL. Urban noted the Cardinals signed Wilkinson after he went through two tryouts. 

Northern Blues general manager Garry O’Sullivan told Tim Michell of the Herald Sun after Wilkinson retired that the young standout has often thought about playing in different sports:

In a nutshell, it’s been great having him at the club. He’s never been one ounce of trouble, he’s been a role model to a fair degree and part of our leadership group. 

But he gets ideas and notions in his head about other aspects of life and sport. At the start of the year he was contemplating going down the soccer pathway, so we had to talk him out of that. Now it’s NFL. Virtually he’s retired from footy so he can plan and prepare to try and crack the NFL scene.

Wilkinson becomes the second major sports star from Australia to join the NFL ranks in the last 12 months. Former rugby star Jarryd Hayne signed with the San Francisco 49ers in March 2015 and made the team's 53-man roster as a running back and punt returner when the season started. 

Hayne did struggle with the transition, averaging just 3.1 yards per carry with three fumbles, eventually being demoted to the 49ers practice squad before getting promoted back to the official roster for the final two games. 

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Wilkinson will be facing a difficult task making the Cardinals roster. Arizona is currently well-stocked in the secondary, with Urban's report noting the team re-signed Chris Clemons. Arizona also has Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel and Tyrann Mathieu on the roster. 

The injury histories of Clemons and Mathieu, who both ended 2015 on injured reserve, do give Wilkinson some hope to make the 53-man roster. He can also develop his skills on the practice squad before being put in a high-pressure situation. 


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