Former England prospect Harry Mallinder joins Wales winger Louis Rees-Zammit in becoming a member of NFL via the Worldwide Participant Pathway program.
Mallinder is the newest rugby star chasing his NFL goals after 22-year-old Wales worldwide Rees-Zammit, who performed his membership rugby at Gloucester, announced on Tuesday he is joining the NFL’s International Player Pathway (IPP) this month.
Mallinder performed for Northampton from 2013 via to 2021 and earlier than shifting to Japan the place he was on the Black Rams Tokyo and has registered as a kicker/punter, whereas Rees-Zammit has registered as a operating again/large receiver.
On social media Mallinder mentioned: “Excited and honoured to be chosen for the 2024 NFL IPP as a kicker/punter. Cannot wait to get to work!”
On the conclusion of the coaching camp, the IPP athletes will likely be eligible to fill a seventeenth apply squad roster spot on any of the 32 groups – a further spot reserved for a global participant.
This 12 months’s IPP class consists of athletes from eight international locations and varied sporting backgrounds together with rugby, basketball, athletics, Gaelic soccer and Australian guidelines soccer.
Nigeria (with one participant listed as joint Scottish) and Eire will every have 4 gamers on the camp, with three from England, two from Australia and one every from Wales, Austria and the Dominican Republic.
Rees-Zammit: Can rugby star with ‘cheetah’ velocity blaze path in NFL?
Rees-Zammit isn’t the primary rugby participant strive his hand at making it within the NFL, however can he succeed the place others have faltered and what units him aside from his friends?
He follows within the footsteps of one-time England worldwide Christian Wade, amongst others, however, given Wade didn’t make a regular-season look throughout his three years with the Buffalo Payments earlier than returning to membership rugby and French facet Racing 92 in 2022, has Rees-Zammit presumably bitten off greater than he can chew?
Wade is the obvious instance that Rees-Zammit can study from, having each plied their commerce on the wing in rugby union, and the Welshman already has the advantage of a five-year head begin on the previous Wasps star who was 27 when he made the swap in 2019.
Wade efficiently got here via the IPPP to land as a operating again with the Payments, sensationally scoring a 65-yard landing together with his very first contact for the crew in a preseason sport towards the Indianapolis Colts. Nonetheless, he would by no means see the sector in a daily season contest and Wade beforehand hinted at how his biggest second – that TD towards the Colts – was symptomatic of his battle to make the swap.
“The way in which I did my hand off, I type of acquired in hassle for that,” Wade mentioned. “Initially I had it in the proper pocket, however after I realised I used to be going to chop again, I went again to taking the ball like I used to be catching a rugby ball.”
Wade isn’t the one homegrown rugby participant to take their abilities to America. Christian Scotland-Williamson and Alex Grey had too made the transfer from the Gallagher Premiership to the IPPP, touchdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Atlanta Falcons, respectively.
Once more, neither noticed the sector in a aggressive sport earlier than trying to return to rugby. Grey can now be seen on the rebooted Gladiator TV collection, taking down contenders as ‘Apollo’.
Rees-Zammit’s biggest power is his velocity. Like with Wade, it may make him a pure match on the operating again place, or, alternatively, may there be a match at large receiver? Or each.
Sky Sports activities’ Neil Reynolds likened him to San Francisco 49ers twin risk Deebo Samuel, saying on the newest Inside The Huddle podcast: “You play him a bit at large receiver, you stick him within the backfield, let him return some kicks. There’s a variety of issues he may do and will probably be fascinating to see how they use him on the upcoming camp.”
Rees-Zammit’s NFL journey begins on Friday with a flight to Florida forward of a 10-week intensive coaching camp as a part of the IPPP, on the finish of which he’ll discover out if a crew needs to signal him.
That is simply the beginning. Like with Wade and others who’ve traversed the identical path earlier than him, then making a crew’s beginning roster is one other battle in itself.
It’s undoubted the Welshman has huge potential. Not simply when it comes to his apparent athletic capability. Because the NFL appears to proceed its enlargement into Europe and different territories, most notably with the Worldwide Collection fixtures that happen every year, Rees-Zammit can convey the sport to a complete new viewers.