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Rees-Zammit signs with Super Bowl-winning Chiefs

Former Wales rugby star Louis Rees-Zammit has signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as he continues his bid to secure an unlikely future in the NFL.

Rees-Zammit will join up with the back-to-back reigning Super Bowl champions this offseason after spending 10 weeks training in Florida as part of the league’s International Player Pathway programme.

His opportunity at Arrowhead comes just three months after the former Gloucester winger announced his decision to step away from rugby and pursue football on the eve of the Six Nations.

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Louis Rees-Zammit showed off his speed in a ’40-yard dash’ as he attempted to impress scouts on his journey to enter the NFL. (Credit: NFL UK)

The 23-year-old showcased his physical attributes in front of NFL scouts at a Pro Day last Wednesday, logging a 4.43 in the 40-yard dash that would have ranked fifth among running back prospects and tied-10th among wide receiver prospects at this year’s NFL Combine

He has since visited multiple teams including the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos, but will now continue to hone his craft with Andy Reid’s Chiefs.

The International Player Pathway programme, previously known as NFL Undiscovered, began in 2016 and was launched in aid of providing athletes around the world with the opportunity to earn a place on an NFL roster, with former England rugby sevens player Alex Jenkins, former Worcester and Harlequins lock Christian Scotland-Williamson and Racing 92 wing Christian Wade among the rugby players to attempt the transition.

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Rees-Zammit opens up on his decision to quit rugby union to pursue a career in the NFL

What now?

Rees-Zammit will now link up with the Chiefs to continue his development over the coming months, with the team permitted to begin its offseason workout programmes from April 15.

It marks the first time that teams will be allowed a 17th roster spot on their practice spot specifically designated to an international player, meaning he will not count against the 90-man roster that the Chiefs must chisel down into a final group of 53 by the end of the summer.

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On the Inside the Huddle podcast, Neil Reynolds and Jeff Reinebold envision the role Louis Rees-Zammit could carve out in the NFL, after the rugby player announced he is going to enter the International Player Pathway Program

Training camp in July is set to represent the first real opportunity for the Chiefs to assess Rees-Zammit in pads and contact situations, while preseason in August could offer him his first non-competitive outings as the defending champions gear up for the start of the regular season in September.

Should Rees-Zammit earn a spot on the practice squad, the Chiefs will be able to elevate him to the active roster a maximum of three times during the season.

Where will he play?

Rees-Zammit arrives championed for the blistering speed that lifted him to success within international rugby, but, perhaps contrary to his experiences in rugby, will find himself encountered by defenders capable of matching him and competing for opportunities against some of the quickest players in the nation.

Arguably the most taxing obstacle facing him, though, will be the speed at which he can understand and absorb the complexities of an NFL playbook, which typically contains hundreds of different offensive concepts and play designs.

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Highlights from the Kansas City Chiefs against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LVIII from Las Vegas

He has been working out at both running back and wide receiver during his 10-week camp, while his straight line speed has also seen him tipped for potential kick return responsibilities, the latter of which could present an opening in light of the NFL’s new hybrid kickoff setup.

In Andy Reid he will have one of the league’s most innovative offensive minds with whom to work, not to mention a genius screen-play designer that may well already be drawing up ways of getting Rees-Zammit and his rugby-cultivated power through contract running in space behind a sea of red blockers.

For now, the likely task ahead is locking down that 17th spot on the Chiefs practice squad.

‘Rees-Zammit’s brave move paying off’

Sky Sports NFL presenter Neil Reynolds…

“I’m delighted for Louis but not surprised he has been picked up by an NFL team so quickly. Louis’ progress and growth through the International Player Pathway program has been massive and he has all the tools to be an impact weapon straight away as he heads to the league.

“There was quite the market to secure Louis’ services and I’m absolutely fascinated to see how he is developed and used by the Kansas City Chiefs. Head coach Andy Reid loves explosive chess pieces that he can use to great effect and I think Louis will grow further and flourish in Kansas City, especially with a certain Patrick Mahomes at the quarterback position.

“Finally, on a personal level, I’m delighted for Louis. He took a considerable risk walking away from his rugby career and I know how much this means for Louis and for his family. His brave move is, as expected, now paying dividends and I cannot wait to see what he does on the next stages of his NFL journey.”

Has anybody from the IPP made it?

Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata remains the most notable success story as a product of the International Player Pathway programme having gone on to assert himself as one of the most dominant players in his position across the league.

The Australian, who comes from a rugby background, joined the programme in January 2018 before being drafted by the Eagles with the 233rd pick in the seventh round of the NFL Draft later that year. He has since established himself as a long-term starter in Philadelphia, earning a four-year $64m contract in September 2021 as reward for his impact and later helping the team reach Super Bowl LVII, where the Eagles were beaten by the Chiefs.

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Following the news that Louis Rees-Zammit is leaving rugby to pursue a career in the NFL, we take a look at Christian Wade’s first ever NFL touchdown after he made the same move in 2018

British defensive end Efe Obada is meanwhile set to enter his seventh season in the NFL after coming through the IPP in in 2017 having previously played with the London Warriors. He initially spent time with the Dallas Cowboys on the recommendation of British coach Aden Durde, followed by offseason stints with the Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons before spending three seasons with the Caroline Panthers, one with the Buffalo Bills and the last two as part of the Washington Commanders.

Former Wasps winger Wade occupied a spot on the Bills practice squad from 2019-2022, notably scoring on a 65-yard touchdown run during preseason. He has since returned to his career in rugby.

Las Vegas Raiders fullback Jakob Johnson, defensive tackle David Bada, and Los Angeles Chargers defensive end C. J. Okoye are also among the IPP products currently active in the league, alongside Britain’s Ayo Oyelola (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Adedayo Odeleye (Houston Texans).

Durde: IPP continuing to grow

British Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Aden Durde…

“You’ve really got to give kudos to him to take that fearless step, because a lot of people probably got on him about it.
I don’t know him as a person but I have to say respect to that. He did a great job at his pro day.

“The way the programme has grown is testament to the players that have been on it before.

“Those players like Efe Obada, Jordan Mailata, Moritz B√∂hringer, Jakob Johnson, Anthony Dable even, laying the path and showing it’s possible is a really cool thing.

“It’s just elevated and you’ve got people in from all over the world consistently coming.”

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