Three British players have been given the chance to carve out careers in the NFL as the league extends its plans to make move into new markets
Three British players have been given the chance to carve out careers in the NFL as the league extends its plans to make move into new markets.
The move is part of the NFLs International Player Pathway scheme. Under the program, the players will be added to practice squads in the NFC South to develop their skills but will not be eligible to be activated to the main roster during the 2017 season.
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect is Alex Gray, a former England rugby sevens international, who has joined the Atlanta Falcons as a tight end. The Falcons lost this years Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. I have been working hard for this goal and to be told it was going to happen was an amazing moment, the 26-year-old Gray, who played for the Newcastle Falcons and London Irish during his rugby career, said. This is the start of another journey. It is a fantastic thing that is happening, but I am not going to get to where I want to be without keeping myself grounded. Making the decision to give this my all from rugby, there was a big transition period and it was mentally very humbling. When you have to start from scratch again, that was a huge mental battle for me. When I look back I will be very proud of the way I approached this.
The two other British players have college football experience. Alex Jenkins was a three-year starter at defensive end for the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. The 24-year-old has joined the New Orleans Saints. This is a chance to develop and become a player in the NFL, Jenkins said. It has been a pretty intense time. It feels too good to be true. I always thought I would be trying to do this on my own until NFL International found me. The fact that the Saints will be playing in London this season [as part of the International Series] makes it even more exciting for me.
Efe Obada joins another team that has reached the Super Bowl recently, the Carolina Panthers. The 25-year-old has had spells with the practice squads for the Falcons, Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs. A German player, Eric Nzeocha, joins the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as part of the scheme.
It is highly unlikely that any of the players, already in their mid-20s, will transition to starters in the league, but they follow a number of British players into the league The Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi was named to the Pro Bowl after a productive 2016 season in Florida, although he moved from London to the US when he was seven. Menelik Watson of the Denver Broncos and Atlantas Jack Crawford were born and raised in the UK and have since carved out respectable careers in the NFL.