Louis Rees-Zammit: NFL chance has Wales rugby star feeling ‘like a little kid’ | NFL News

Louis Rees-Zammit: NFL chance has Wales rugby star feeling ‘like a little kid’ | NFL News

At 22, Louis Rees-Zammit has already climbed to the top of the mountain in one sport. With 14 tries in 31 Test appearances under his belt for Wales at what is still a young age and a devastating turn of pace, he was recognised as one of the most dangerous wingers in world rugby union.

Yet, on the eve of the 2024 Six Nations and with a British & Irish Lions tour to Australia next year on the horizon, he has decided to change tack and attempt to conquer another sport, entering the world of the NFL as part of this year’s International Player Pathway (IPP) intake.

The move into American football has happened quickly for Rees-Zammit. He only received the offer to join the IPP last Saturday, was given permission by club side Gloucester to be released from his contract a couple of days later, and on Friday flew out to Florida to begin the 10-week training camp this coming Monday.

Although already an elite-level sportsperson, this opportunity has still been enough to induce a state of child-like delirium.

“I feel like a little kid, and I never thought this day would come, but I’m so happy it has,” Rees-Zammit told Sky Sports’ Neil Reynolds.

“I’ve never played a game, so it’s going to be difficult at the start. There is going to be a lot of me watching film and certain players, but I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge.

“It’s a lot of different skills, but at the same time I can improve on what I’ve got already, so I’m just ready to get into it.”

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Former rugby player Louis Rees-Zammit reveals what position he would like to play as he sets his sights on the NFL

The world of American football is not exactly an alien one to Rees-Zammit, who will be joined by another rugby player in former England prospect Harry Mallinder in the IPP class of 2024.

His father, John Zammit, played at amateur level in this country for both Cardiff Tigers and Oxford Saints, and Rees-Zammit became a fan of the Washington Commanders off the back of his dad’s support of the team as well.

Tabbed as a wide receiver or running back prospect, he cites Stefon Diggs, Justin Jackson and Cooper Kupp as the current NFL stars he looks up to, along with confessing to daily YouTube viewings of former Commanders receiver DeSean Jackson in action.

However, he is also eyeing up a role returning kicks – something which his experience bringing the ball out as part of the back three in rugby would seem to make him a natural fit for.

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On the Inside the Huddle podcast, Neil Reynolds and Jeff Reinebold envision the role Louis Rees-Zammit could carve out in the NFL, after the rugby player announced he is going to enter the International Player Pathway Program

“I’d love to return kicks – that’s probably something I love to do in rugby,” Rees-Zammit said. “But in terms of position, in rugby I want the ball at all times so it would be somewhere on the offense.

“Running back, receiver, a bit of a hybrid; those are the two positions I want to go for, but at the same time whatever I get told, I’ll try to do.

“For me, I guess my main attribute was my speed in rugby, which is very transferable. I’d like to say I’ve got good hands and don’t drop the ball that often, but it’s a different sport and the ball comes at you fast.

“I understand it’s going to take a lot of work, but I’m very excited and there are a lot of skills like footwork now and then. Obviously, footwork in American football is massive.”

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Louis Rees-Zammit explains his decision to quit rugby union and pursue his ‘dream’ of a career in the NFL

Being clocked at a top speed of 24.2mph while scoring a try for Wales against the Barbarians and timed completing a 100-metre sprint in 10.44 seconds last October are signs that the 6’3″, 14-stone winger has the physical attributes required to succeed in the high-intensity, hard-hitting NFL.

But it is not just the technical side of the game where Rees-Zammit will have to adapt. There is the off-the-field side too, with the hours of film study, memorising playbooks, learning complex calls and executing the precise routes he will be expected to run either as a receiver or a running back.

He is not the first rugby player to try to make the switch. Fellow union winger Christian Wade spent three seasons on the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad, while rugby league star Jarryd Hayne made the 53-man roster for the San Francisco 49ers in 2015 before returning to Australia.

Nevertheless, another Australian in Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata, who played junior rugby league for Canterbury Bulldogs U18s, and Nigerian-British defensive end Efe Obada, currently with Washington and who earned his NFL chance after just five games for London Warriors, have shown players not steeped in American football tradition can carve out a career in the league.

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Following the news that Louis Rees-Zammit is leaving rugby to pursue a career in the NFL, we take a look at Christian Wade’s first ever NFL touchdown after he made the same move

Their example is one Rees-Zammit has his sights on following, along with aiming to blaze a trail for others who want to try to defy the odds and make it on the gridiron as well.

“Those boys are making it now, so that leads me to try to do a similar thing and hopefully I can inspire other players in the UK to do similar things to me,” Rees-Zammit said. “Those boys were the start of the journey and hopefully I can be a little bit of that as well.

“It probably couldn’t have come at a better time for me, especially as I’m pretty much the same age as everyone coming out of college.

“I’ve got time to learn the game and learn all those skills. I’m so excited and I still can’t believe it’s happening.”

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