‘I thought it was the right time’: Louis Rees-Zammit excited about NFL pursuit

Louis Rees-Zammit says his American football dream is “alive” after embarking on the NFL’s International Player Pathway (IPP) after switching from rugby union. The Gloucester, Wales and British and Irish Lions wing stunned the rugby world last month by quitting the sport in a bid to land a contract with an NFL team in 2024.

Rees-Zammit has joined the NFL’s intensive 10-week IPP program in Florida, where he has been training as a wide receiver while also completing some running back drills.

“There are a lot of transferable skills from rugby,” Rees-Zammit, 23, told BBC Wales’ Scrum V programme. “I absolutely love training. My aspiration to play in the NFL is alive and well and I’m excited to see what the next ten weeks have in store. In the beginning it is difficult to think about it, but like with everything you get used to it. The view from the sides (of the helmet) has some kind of effect. But I’m starting to get used to it now and I’ll see what happens.”

Rees-Zammit says 10 international players have joined the IPP, with a pro day at the end of the program to determine if individuals are good enough to make the NFL ranks.

He said: “You basically come here and work on the game of football on and off the field, in the classroom and train six days a week. Ten weeks of intensive training to see if your dream becomes reality. It was the hardest decision of my life (to leave rugby), but it was always something I wanted to do from a young age, and I thought this was the right time. If it works out, I have ten years to try and play the sport I loved growing up, or I can go back to rugby and play the sport I love.”

Wales have lost their first two Six Nations matches in Rees-Zammit’s absence, with 27-26 and 16-14 defeats to Scotland and England respectively.

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“I was jealous of the boys playing and I thought I was quite disappointed not to have played,” Rees-Zammit said of Wales’ defeat to Twickenham on Saturday. “The boys put in a shift and just managed to lose, which was tough. They gave everything. Gats (Wales head coach Warren Gatland) was incredible with me when I told him about my decision. He asked if American football wouldn’t work what I would do and I said of course I would come back to rugby.”