Louis Rees-Zammit, renowned for his exceptional talent in rugby union, has defied expectations by stepping away from the sport at its zenith, aiming to forge a career in the fiercely competitive realm of the NFL. At just 22 years old, Rees-Zammit, known for his incredible speed and success on the rugby field, has chosen to embark on the daunting mission of making a mark in American football.
‘Big NFL Fan’ A Welsh international rugby union player, Louis Rees-Zammit, has been a standout performer in the sport, showcasing his blistering speed and earning accolades both at the club level with Gloucester and on the international stage with Wales. Despite being on a trajectory to rugby stardom, the 22-year-old has revealed his childhood dream of playing in the NFL, influenced by his father’s passion for American football.
“As a little boy, my dad has always brought me up to be a big NFL fan. Growing up, he used to play American football, so it’s to continue his legacy and, hopefully, go beyond and make him proud,” explained Rees-Zammit on the Gloucester Rugby website.
In a surprising move that has reverberated across the rugby community, Rees-Zammit, often regarded as the “poster boy of the Six Nations,” is set to explore uncharted territory, leaving fans and pundits astounded.
The Process To bolster his chances of securing a spot in the NFL, Rees-Zammit has enrolled in the International Player Pathway (IPP) program, established in 2017 to provide elite foreign athletes with an opportunity to break into the NFL. The program involves a 10-week intensive training camp at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, followed by an opportunity to showcase skills to NFL scouts ahead of the 2024 draft in March.
Standing at six-foot-three and weighing 192 pounds, Rees-Zammit hopes to impress NFL teams and secure a spot on a roster for the upcoming 2024 season.
A Whole New World While rugby and American football share the use of oval balls, Richie Gray, a seasoned coach in both sports, emphasizes that the two are fundamentally different. Gray, currently the contact and collision skills coach with Toulon in the French Top 14 and with NFL coaching experience, highlights the dissimilarities between the sports, asserting that tackling is the only common ground.
Gray acknowledges the challenges Rees-Zammit will face, noting that the NFL features “freakish athletes” and a level of complexity that demands extensive off-field preparation. He underscores the need for Rees-Zammit to adapt quickly to the fast-paced, high-pressure environment of American football.
Wales’ coach Warren Gatland adds a stark perspective, stating, “There aren’t a lot of people who make it in the NFL who haven’t been brought up with the game and played it at a young age.”
Can It Be Done? Louis Rees-Zammit joins a select group of rugby players attempting to transition to the NFL through the IPP program. While success stories like Jordan Mailata, who secured a key role in the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line, inspire optimism, others like Christian Wade faced challenges and returned to rugby after a stint in the NFL.
With only 1.6% of NCAA football players making it to the professional level, the odds are formidable. Rees-Zammit’s physique and speed, while impressive, must contend with the seasoned expertise of NFL players.
Gray acknowledges the audacity of Rees-Zammit’s decision and commends his courage, emphasizing the potential for growth and learning, regardless of the outcome. He concludes that Rees-Zammit, at the right age to explore such opportunities, deserves credit for taking the leap into uncharted territory.