What next for Louis Rees-Zammit after NFL hopeful lands Kansas City Chiefs deal?

By Sports Desk March 30, 2024

Wales rugby star Louis Rees-Zammit has taken a step closer to realising his long-standing ambition of competing in the NFL by signing a three-year deal with Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here the PA news agency examines the key questions around his move.

So Rees-Zammit is now an NFL player?

Not yet – and this is where the hard work really begins. Having impressed on the NFL’s international player pathway (IPP) program, the 23-year-old former Wales wing has secured a place on the Chiefs’ practise squad and must now prove he is worthy of selection for their active 53-man roster ahead of the new season, which begins on September 5. Even if he fails to make the initial cut, rules allow for an international player to be elevated to the active roster three times in a season.

What will be his position?

It is still early days but there are a number of options – running back, wide receiver, a hybrid of the two and kick returner. The last of these offers his best route into the NFL, at least in the early stages. Rule changes for the upcoming season have been designed to increase the number of kick returns and it is here that Rees-Zammit’s instinctive running skills, identification of gaps in the defence and athleticism will find their natural home. Apart from the presence of blockers and having to wear extensive padding, it would be the closest he comes to playing rugby on a gridiron field.

What are the odds of making it?

Even for a player with the physical attributes of Rees-Zammit, it will be incredibly hard to actually break through into the NFL. His speed over 40 yards, footwork and hands are valuable assets, but he is competing against rivals who have grown up playing a sport which is new to him. The instincts honed from gridiron exposure at an early age will be missing, while other aspects such as running routes, learning the playbook, experience of a different size ball and adapting to a whole new sporting culture are also obstacles to be navigated. Successfully swapping codes between rugby league and union is a challenge, never mind adapting to a new game altogether.

Which other rugby union players have made it?

 

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From these shores, none. Christian Wade is the highest-profile example after he was recruited for the Buffalo Bills in 2019, also via the IPP. The electric former Wasps wing made an impressive start by scoring a stunning 70-yard touchdown in a pre-season game but he never made the active roster and returned to rugby union in 2022 by signing for Racing 92. Australian-born Hayden Smith and well-travelled Kenyan Daniel Adongo actually made appearances in the NFL, but only a handful between them. If Rees-Zammit is a success, he will be the first.

What happens if the move does not work out?

Moving to the NFL is a win-win scenario for the former Lions and Gloucester sensation. If he makes an impact for the Chiefs, he will become a superstar in British sport. Should it prove too hard a conversion even for an athlete of his quality, he can return to rugby knowing clubs will be queuing up to sign a finisher who has plundered 14 tries in 32 caps for Wales. And if he sees out his Chiefs contract, he will still only be 26-years-old.

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