Louis Rees-Zammit has give up rugby to chase his “dream” – however how tough will it’s to make that come true?
The 22-year-old Wales and Gloucester wing surprised the rugby world by asserting his speedy departure from the game to strive his hand within the NFL.
It was as daring and courageous because it was a shock, forcing Wales to delay naming their Six Nations squad on Tuesday.
So what’s subsequent for Rees-Zammit, what can he count on from his swap and may he succeed the place so many have failed?
Properly simply as he does on the pitch, there isn’t a hanging about for the Cardiff-born flyer who’s already packing his luggage to go to Florida on Friday.
Even Wales head coach Warren Gatland was take aback with Rees-Zammit calling simply an hour earlier than the squad announcement.
What’s the IPP programme?
The Worldwide Participant Pathway Program helps foreign-born soccer gamers attain the NFL.
Since its inception in 2017, this system has offered elite worldwide athletes with a chance to compete on the NFL stage, enhance their abilities, and probably earn a spot on an NFL roster.
Gamers can then earn a spot with an NFL workforce’s observe squad earlier than remaining choice for the season roster.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers proprietor Joel Glazer mentioned the choice final September to increasing the scheme was a “vital step ahead” in bringing international expertise to the NFL.
What does the IPP contain?
Gamers spend 10 arduous weeks in an intensive camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the place days can begin as early as 05:00 and embrace learning the game in addition to engaged on abilities.
Gamers are then evaluated by means of the annual NFL Worldwide Mix – a mix of take a look at together with bench press, 40-yard sprint and shuttle drills – earlier than enjoying in entrance of workforce scouts at a professional day held on the College of South Florida forward of the NFL Draft.
What does Rees-Zammit provide?
Wales coach Gatland described him as a “freak” as an athlete.
Former Buffalo Payments coach Phoebe Schecter mentioned: “His pace instantly jumps out at you. He has unbelievable straight-line quickness, nice athleticism and at 6ft 3, he is received these nice bodily abilities.
“To play to your nation you should have that aggressive mindset, that’s half the battle whenever you’re making an attempt to make it within the NFL. Being keen to study and develop is large however it’s not simple.
“Louis brings athleticism and bodily measurement, however so much will likely be his psychological toughness. He is received to be keen to begin from scratch once more. He will go from the highest of a sport in rugby union to being on the backside of the NFL.”
What place may he play?
Schecter added: “Possibly a receiver due to his measurement and his pace. You are probably particular workforce positions like a returner.
“You need to discover a technique to put the ball in his fingers and let him run with it, that is the place he could make the magic occur.”
From rugby to gridiron?
Rees-Zammit might not be the primary Welsh rugby participant to interrupt into the NFL.
Evan Williams, of Bridgend, was informed he was “too small” to play rugby in Wales however after incomes a rugby scholarship within the US, he attracted the eye of faculty soccer groups as a punter.
Now he’s chasing the dream of progressing to the subsequent step into the NFL, however warned Rees-Zammit he faces a “humbling” adjustment.
“From the skin I used to be like, Oh how arduous can this be?,” Williams, now 23, informed Radio 1 Newsbeat.
“However there’s numerous nuances and variations, even the little modifications like the form of the ball. It is easy to hit the candy spot due to a rugby ball due to how massive it’s. However the American soccer is way smaller and has a sharp finish.
“Then you have to put on a helmet and pads as properly, and have these huge guys sprinting at you. It was all very overwhelming. The usual of athleticism is one other step above.”
What do gamers earn whereas making an attempt?
Rees-Zammit has given up his contract with Gloucester – and Six Nations earnings with Wales – for the camp.
If chosen, the common season wage for a observe squad member in 2023 was $216,000 (£170,700) and the potential riches of incomes an NFL contract are staggering.
Quarterback Joe Burrow agreed a record new deal with Cincinnati Bengals final September price $275m (£217m) over 5 years – the best annual wage in NFL historical past.
What are the probabilities of success?
Final 12 months was essentially the most profitable but for the programme and noticed eight of the unique 38 athletes earn a roster place with groups for the 2023 season.
To this point 37 worldwide gamers have signed with NFL groups for the reason that begin of this system, hailing from a variety international locations together with Nigeria, Germany and Tonga.
Who has come by means of the IPP system?
Washington Commanders defensive finish Efe Obada is a graduate, leaving England and finally becoming a member of Carolina Panthers in 2017 by means of the IPP programme earlier than happening to Buffalo Payments after which DC.
There are a handful of IPP gamers on lively rosters within the 2023 season, together with former Australian rugby league participant Philadelphia Eagles offensive sort out Jordan Mailata.
The 26-year-old was a burgeoning rugby league participant in Australia earlier than transferring to the NFL, the place he has flourished and featured in Tremendous Bowl LVII.
Who else has tried to make it?
Rees-Zammit shouldn’t be the primary British rugby participant to make the swap however can be the primary to seem in an NFL match.
As way back as 1987, Wales full-back Paul Thorburn was invited to kick-off the Los Angeles Rams pleasant towards Denver Broncos at Wembley.
A contract with the Rams was mentioned to be on provide however Thorburn didn’t impress.
Ex-England and Wasps winger Christian Wade was essentially the most well-known to strive his luck when he joined the Buffalo Payments beneath the IPP programme in 2019.
He scored a a 65-yard landing on his Payments debut in pre-season however by no means made a daily season look and is now again in rugby union with Racing 92 in France.
Worcester lock Christian Scotland-Williamson spent two years with Pittsburgh Steelers as a tight-end, and former England Sevens participant Alex Grey spent a quick interval with Atlanta Falcons.
None of that triumvirate made a daily season look.
Crew GB discus thrower Lawrence Okoye had a bit extra time within the NFL – however no extra common season minutes.
Having reaching 2012 Olympic remaining in London, he took half within the 2013 NFL Mix and entered that 12 months’s draft.
He was signed by the San Francisco 49ers, the place he spent two years, earlier than spells on the observe squads at Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins between 2015 and 2017.
He returned to athletics and gained silver on the 2022 Commonwealth Video games in Birmingham.
If all of it goes mistaken?
Gatland says Rees-Zammit can be welcomed again in rugby.
“We’re dissatisfied however you are in knowledgeable sport atmosphere for such a short while and you have to take advantage of the alternatives that come your manner,” mentioned Gatland.
“I mentioned if it does not work out, what are your subsequent steps? He mentioned he’d come again to rugby.”