Rugby star Louis Rees-Zammit, famous for his fast gameplay, has made waves by choosing to go after an NFL career. This big news broke on Tuesday, showing he’s taking his game in a new direction.
A Potential NFL Game-Changer
At the young age of 22, Rees-Zammit has made a big impression in rugby. He’s a winger for the British and Irish Lions and he’s swift. He’s been recorded at a speed of 24.2 mph, which means he’s as fast as, or even faster than, some top NFL players. Take Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins, known as “Cheetah” because he’s so speedy—he hit 23.24 mph back in 2016. Then there are guys like DK Metcalf from the Seattle Seahawks and Chase Brown from the Cincinnati Bengals. This season, they strike speeds of 22.23 mph and 22.05 mph.”
Transition to the NFL
Rees-Zammit is making a move to American football, thanks to getting into the NFL’s International Player Pathway (IPP) program. He’ll spend 10 weeks with this program designed to help non-American players join the NFL. It’s an important step for him to lock in a spot in the league. Feeling thrilled about it, Rees-Zammit told BBC Sport, “I am extremely excited to take up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pursue a new challenge.”
Understanding the International Player Pathway
The IPP, in place since 2017, allows select divisions to allocate international players, increasing opportunities for global athletes. Damani Leech, the former COO of NFL International, emphasized the IPP as a “viable route to the NFL” and an opportunity for skill development. The program’s success can be seen in the 2023 season, where eight out of thirteen athletes from the combine were added to NFL rosters, though none were part of the active roster.
Financial Aspects and Success Stories
- Practice squad members in 2023 earned a regular season salary of $216,000 (£170,700).
- Notable IPP
Rugby to NFL: A Growing Trend
The transition from rugby to the NFL is not unprecedented. Former England Sevens player Alex Gray and Christian Scotland-Williamson, a former lock for Worcester, are among those who have tried their luck in the NFL through the IPP. Christian Wade, another rugby star, had been allocated to Buffalo Bills in 2019 but returned to rugby union with Racing 92 in France.
Impact on Rugby and Rees-Zammit’s Legacy
Rees-Zammit’s departure from rugby was timed just before Wales announced their squad for the Six Nations, a tournament in which he was a key player. His rugby journey, starting from Hartpury College to Gloucester Rugby, has been marked by significant achievements, including earning 31 Test caps for Wales and being the youngest player selected for the British & Irish Lions’ tour since 1959.Gloucester Rugby’s Support for Rees-Zammit’s NFL Ambition
Gloucester Rugby is bummed about him leaving, but CEO Alex Brown is backing Rees-Zammit’s choice to hit up the NFL. Brown said, “We’re still super proud of how Gloucester Rugby helped him become the top-notch player he is today.”
The Significance of International Talent in the NFL
The inclusion of international players like Rees-Zammit in the NFL underscores the league’s commitment to diversifying its talent pool. The success of the IPP program in integrating players from different backgrounds into American football enriches the sport, bringing fresh perspectives and unique skill sets. It also opens doors for aspiring athletes worldwide to consider careers in the NFL, expanding the sport’s global reach and appeal.
Everyone’s eyes are on Rees-Zammit as he starts his next adventure. He’s super fast and athletic from playing rugby, and now he might show off those skills in the NFL. For Rees-Zammit, switching sports isn’t just for fun—it’s about chasing a dream he’s always had and showing how good of an athlete he is.”This is the right time for me to realize another professional goal of playing American football in the US. Those opportunities don’t come around very often,” said Rees-Zammit, reflecting on his bold move. Learn More.