Support our Nation today - please donate here
Sport

The road to American football – how does Louis Rees-Zammit get to the NFL?

16 Jan 2024 3 minute read
Louis Rees-Zammit playing for Wales / NFL Logo (Credit: PA)

Simon Peach, PA

Louis Rees-Zammit has announced he is swapping rugby union for a shot at the NFL.

Gloucester announced on Tuesday they are releasing the British and Irish Lions wing ahead of Wales making their squad selection for the Guinness Six Nations.

Rees-Zammit has confirmed he is joining the NFL’s International Player Pathway programme and, here, the PA news agency looks at the road to American football being started by the 22-year-old.

What is the IPP programme?

The International Player Pathway has been in place since 2017, allowing select divisions to be allocated players. Last September it was announced that the NFL is increasing opportunities for international players from next season as part of a league-wide initiative that will see practice squads expanded to 17 players if a qualifying player is included. Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner and chair of the NFL international committee Joel Glazer said: “The opportunity for all 32 clubs to utilise an additional practice squad roster spot for an international player is a significant step forward in helping to identify, develop and enable more exciting talent from around the world to play in the NFL”.

What does the IPP involve?

Damani Leech, the former chief operating officer of NFL International and current Denver Broncos president, said: “The International Player Pathway programme provides athletes with a viable route to the NFL and an opportunity to further develop their skills”. Many are evaluated for a potential place in the IPP through the annual NFL International Combine and the 2023 group spent 10 weeks at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, before playing in front of team scouts at a pro day held at the University of South Florida ahead of the NFL Draft.

What are the chances of success?

Last year’s International Combine featured 38 players from 13 countries and, following that, 13 talented athletes were invited to join the IPP programme in the US. Of those, a record eight were added to NFL rosters for the 2023 season. None of those formed part of the active roster but were eligible for an international player practice squad exemption, allowing them time to develop in an NFL environment.

What do they earn while trying?

The regular season salary for a practice squad member in 2023 was $216,000 (£170,700).

Who has come through the IPP system?

Washington Commanders defensive end Efe Obada is a graduate, leaving England and eventually joining Carolina Panthers in 2017 through the IPP programme before going on to Buffalo Bills and then DC. There are a handful of IPP players on active rosters in the 2023 season, including Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata. The 26-year-old was a burgeoning rugby league player in Australia before moving to the NFL, where he has flourished and featured in Super Bowl LVII.

Who else has tried to make it?

Former England Sevens player Alex Gray was part of the IPP and spent a period with Atlanta Falcons. Christian Scotland-Williamson spent two years with Pittsburgh Steelers after playing as lock for Worcester. Christian Wade was the most famous former rugby player from these shores to try his luck in the NFL, being allocated as a running back to Buffalo Bills in 2019. The one-cap England wing left last year and is now back in rugby union with Racing 92 in France. None of that triumvirate made a regular season appearance.

READ MORE:

Louis Rees-Zammit to quit rugby for a shot at playing in the NFL

Wales coach Warren Gatland’s shock at Louis Rees-Zammit bombshell

Watch: Louis Rees-Zammit’s first interview since shock announcement


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
6 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Riki
Riki
1 month ago

This is really strange! Why would he do such a thing? American football or Grid Iron isn’t played anywhere outside of The US. And he’s from Wales, he could be the most talented person on planet earth and still wouldnt get a game in that country. Is he being forced out as opposed to “choosing” this path?

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago
Reply to  Riki

Several English rugby players have tried and failed in recent years, maybe he thinks he can succeed, and if he does, the rewards would set him up for life, in a very short time. Good luck to him..

Riki
Riki
1 month ago
Reply to  Gareth

Indeed, is share your sentiment. I just can’t see it turning into something life changing for the lad or maybe I’m wrong and he’s already been heavily scouted and had some serious talks with one or two teams. I’ve been thinking….maybe The Eagles! With It being Rob M’s team.

Last edited 1 month ago by Riki
Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
1 month ago
Reply to  Riki

I accept that American football isn’t played to NFL standard outside the USA, yet the NFL does have a massive global audience on the same level as the Football Premier League, Formula 1 GP and the Indian IPL cricket league.

Last edited 1 month ago by Johnny Gamble
Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan Edwards
1 month ago

No, no! Just back from 8 weeks watching NFL instead of rugby. LRZ will not earn that much ££ and will hate the restrictions. Running backs/wide receivers are somewhat like wingers but a very very limited range of moves. Has the skill for NFL but not sure he’s big enough for a lot of teams, an ongoing debate. Not worth sacrificing the Rugby future awaiting LRZ, where he can and will express himself so well.

Riki
Riki
1 month ago

He definitely has the size, most Wide receivers are between 6’1and 6’5. With the smallest I’ve ever seen being Golden Tate at 5’10.

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.