Web Stories Thursday, February 29

Wales winger Louis Rees-Zammit, who quit rugby union for the American gridiron, began his dream of playing in the National Football League on Thursday joining 15 other international hopefuls at a Florida training camp.

It marks another step on the International Player Pathway (IPP) for Rees-Zammit that he hopes will lead to an NFL career, where the minimum salary is $750,000.

“We are thrilled to welcome the International Player Pathway program Class of 2024,” said Peter O’Reilly, executive vice president international, club business and major events at the NFL in a statement. “As we focus on the global growth of the game, expanding international talent within the NFL is critical — connecting our sport with fans across the world.

“The 2024 program participants are an elite, diverse group of athletes and we look forward to following their journeys in the months ahead.”

Just minutes before he was set to be named in Wales’ Six Nations squad on Tuesday, Rees-Zammit announced his career change and shortly after was on his way to Bradenton, Florida for an intensive 10-week training camp at the IMG Academy.

In rugby union Rees-Zammit was a versatile winger who earned 32 caps for Wales but in the U.S. the 22-year-old will try to translate those skills to the running back/wide receiver positions.

“I have never played the game so it is going to be very difficult for me at the start,” Rees-Zammit said.

“There’s going to be a lot of me watching film and certain plays. That’s going to be the biggest challenge. There are going to be a lot different skills but, at the same time, I can improve on what I’ve got already. The quicker I can learn the game, the better for me because then I can show everyone what I can do.”

At the conclusion of training camp, the IPP athletes will be eligible to fill a 17th practice squad roster spot on any of the 32 teams — an additional spot reserved for an international player.

This year’s IPP class includes athletes from eight countries and various sporting backgrounds including rugby, basketball, athletics, Gaelic football and Australian rules football.

Nigeria (with one player listed as joint Scottish) and Ireland will each have four players at the camp, with three from England, two from Australia and one each from Wales, Austria and the Dominican Republic.

Since the program began in 2017 a total of 37 international players have signed with NFL teams with 18 currently on NFL rosters.

The IPP program is part of the NFL’s global expansion plans and an escalating push into new markets.

Next season the NFL will play five international regular season games, three in London another in Munich and the first ever in South America when the league visits Sao Paulo.

The NFL in December voted to double the number of games in 2025 from four last season up to eight.

“Becoming a global sport is a major strategic priority for the league and 32 teams,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. “Increasing international game inventory allows us to grow our global presence and share our game with exciting new markets to connect with more fans around the world.”

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