Rugby winger Louis Rees-Zammit clip blows US away, signs with Kansas City Chiefs

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Former Welsh rugby union star Louis Rees-Zammit has raised more than a few eyebrows after he signed a deal with the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.

The 23-year-old who claimed 31 caps for the Welsh national team in his rugby union career stunned in January when he revealed he would leave the sport he’d made his name with to join the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program.

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The IPPP was the program that saw Australian hulk Jordan Mailata get drafted, where he has become an important part of the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive line.

NRL star Valentine Holmes had joined the New York Jets through the program as well but returned to Australia and signed with the North Queensland Cowboys.

While there have no doubt been success stories like Mailata, it’s been hard for players to break through in the skill positions like wide receiver.

But there are hopes for Rees-Zammit to break through in a big way.

“Rees-Lightning has arrived,” the Chiefs posted on X with a lightning bolt emoji and a photo of the 23-year-old Welshman playing for his homeland in a “Chiefs Kingdom” welcome.

“Hi Chiefs Kingdom. Louis Rees-Zammit here. Just signed. Can’t wait to go and see you all at Arrowhead (Stadium),” Rees-Zammit said in a video clip posted on X.

Welsh rugby star signs with NFL champs

That’s a crucial part of the deal with NFL teams able to end contracts by dropping players.

The NFL Network reported that Rees-Zammit, who played for English Premiership side Gloucester from 2018 until this year, has signed a three-year deal with a signing bonus and some portion of the deal guaranteed.

Rees-Zammit conducted a workout for scouts last week – one the Chiefs said included a 4.44-second 40-yard dash that would have ranked fifth among tailbacks at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine for NFL Draft talent, but one Rees-Zammit admitted he was disappointed with.

The Welshman reportedly visited the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos as well as the Chiefs before settling on a desired new NFL home.

But the reaction has been positive for the Welshman with Pat McAfee hyping the signing on his Pat McAfee Show.

“I’m excited to see if this works out,” McAfee said.

“The NFL has been trying to figure out if sports that are similar to football can translate into football.

“We at the Indianapolis Colts had a few guys from New Zealand, I think we had an African rugby player come onto our team and give it a shot, other teams have signed rugby players. I think there’s other styles of football in Ireland.

“Kickers have been able to transition, but not so many positional players have been able to do so — this guy’s fast. This guy’s got (coach) Andy Reid and (quarterback) Patrick Mahomes, and a work ethic that I assume got him to this place.

“I think this is potentially a move of ‘let’s see what he can do, give him a year of NFL coaching, NFL practising and see if he can transition’ because if we can break through on rugby guys becoming NFL guys, then the global expansion of the sport will expedite quickly because rugby is everywhere seemingly.”

Other fans liked what they saw, calling footage of Rees-Zammit on the KC Kingdom fan page “superhuman”, while another fan called him “a potential monster”.

Despite a disappointing 40-yard dash, Rees-Zammit once recorded a top speed of 38.9km/h during a match, which is faster than current NFL speed champion Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins, who hit 35km/h in a match while running 64 yards for a touchdown.

Brad Henson Productions tweeted: “Tyreek Hill had on full padding, and ran 23.24 MPH. Louis Rees-Zammit ran in a game 24.2 MPH, but had on less padding. This is still insane fast, and if the Chiefs found something for kick returns or h-back look out! This kid could be fun to watch!”

Chiefs beat reporter Jace Andrews commented: “Yea I think this Louis Rees-Zammit guy can play a little!”

The reaction from the fans hasn’t been all smooth after the move with some fans already tipping Rees-Zammit to fail.

But Rees-Zammit is just the 37th player from the global talent program to sign an NFL contract and now hopes to become only the sixth to reach an active roster spot.

NFL clubs receive a training camp roster exemption for an international player and this year have a practice squad global berth available specifically for such a player as Rees-Zammit.

NFL teams are allowed to elevate international players from the practice squad three times during the season, providing more chances for players to develop and improve by facing top-level opponents in regular-season contests.

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