Rising NFL star ready to roll with Raiders

Leaving the NFL world of millionaires and stars to chase a rugby league or union career seems crazy, but if Alice Coddington gets her wish, Michael Smith will be the first to make the transition.

As Super Bowl fever grips the US, Smith is breaking barriers to train with the Canberra Raiders while fiancee Coddington finishes her WNBL season with the Capitals.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back said it was only temporary. But when Raiders coach David Furner gets a glimpse of the pint-sized power athlete in action, the Green Machine will be licking its lips. Smith will join the Raiders on Friday for speed drills.

The NFL rookie broke into one of the world's biggest football leagues when he was drafted by the Buccaneers last year.

His goal is to forge a successful career with the franchise and he's only just started a four-year, multimillion-dollar deal.

But Coddington is on a secret mission of her own - to convert Smith to a rugby code.


''My dad [Graham] played rugby union, but we thought rugby league might be a bit easier for [Smith] to pick up,'' Coddington said.

''Dad always asks if Mike wants to play rugby yet. Obviously I want to live in Australia, so we're just working on [Smith]. In five years, you never know, he could make it.''

Smith met with Furner on Wednesday after Capitals coach Carrie Graf told the Raiders coach of Smith's arrival and asked whether the seventh-round draft pick could train with the NRL squad.

Furner didn't hesitate, inviting Smith to Raiders headquarters, but the 24-year-old is taking a cautious approach to getting on the field.

''I'll take my helmet and pads and check myself, y'all crazy,'' Smith said of rugby league. ''I plan on staying in the National Football League for a while before I even think about playing rugby or any other sport.

''I'm going to watch [the Raiders] on the field and see how they play … I don't know if I want to get out there. I'm very competitive, so if I do get out there, I'll be going 100 per cent and I don't want to put myself in that position to get injured.''

The real reason Smith is in Canberra is to prepare for the couple's wedding in March.

Smith and Coddington met while studying at Utah State University and got engaged while Coddington was back in the US last year.

The Canberra junior decided to return home for another season with the Capitals while Smith played his inaugural year in the NFL.

With Tampa Bay's season over, Smith will lead Coddington's cheer squad at Capitals' games for the rest of the year. But when it comes to basketball, Coddington said the rising NFL star struggled on court.

The next decision is whether Coddington will return to Canberra for the 2013-14 WNBL campaign. ''I've got goals and he's got career goals in the NFL, so we're both trying to achieve those,'' Coddington said.