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Star Spangled Saint to Debut

St Kilda ruckman Jason Holmes will make history on Saturday night by becoming the first born and raised American to play AFL when he debuts against Geelong at Etihad Stadium.

The former college basketballer, who stands at 203cm, converted to Australian football just two and a half years ago and was signed as an international rookie for St Kilda at the end of 2013.

Originally from Chicago, the 25-year-old said he was overjoyed to play his first ever AFL game.

“I’m so excited, it’s been one of my main goals since I came out here and it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said.

“I’ve come so far and I’m so grateful for all of the support I’ve received since I began my AFL journey. It’s such an amazing sport and I’m so proud to be a cog in the machine that helps this sport grow across the world.”

Known for his athleticism, Holmes was first picked up by the Saints after registering a vertical leap of 97 centimetres at the 2013 Draft Combine – four centimetres short of Nic Naitanui’s record.

The Saints selected him with pick 36 at the 2014 Rookie Draft and fast-tracked his development through the club’s VFL affiliate Sandringham.

He recently committed to a one-year contract extension after establishing himself as the number one ruckman in the reserves and has been working on his offensive craft as a forward.

“Jason’s development and growth has been very impressive in the two years he has been at the club, and his attitude and commitment to succeed at the elite level has been outstanding,” senior coach Alan Richardson said.

“His performance in the VFL with his ruck work means he gets an opportunity this weekend.”

Holmes played two NAB Challenge games for St Kilda earlier this year, impressing with a brilliant running goal against Essendon.

He will be elevated to St Kilda’s senior list today after Jack Billings was ruled out for the remainder of the season with injury and placed on the long-term injury list earlier this month.

Holmes comes from an elite sporting family with his father having played professional basketball in Europe, his older brother Andre playing for the Oakland Raiders in the NFL, and his younger brother Mark playing basketball in Europe.

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