NFL eyeing England rugby stars?

Hayden Smith

Hayden Smith made the transition from Rugby Union to the NFL in 2011

We’ve seen these kind of stories before, of course, but it appears as if the NFL are seriously targeting some of the England rugby players who have flopped at this year’s World Cup.

Former New York Giants Super Bowl-winning defensive end Osi Umenyiora told The Daily Mail:

“These rugby players are so physical. I watched a guy who was just incredible the way he ran though opponents. I can’t wait to talk to him. If you put a helmet and pads on him, he would kill people.

“I’ve seen a couple of guys in the English team I like the look of. I can’t say who just yet. That would be inappropriate with the tournament still going on. But we are hoping to have a discussion with them at the right time. And we are serious about this.”

We’ve seen this movie before – Jonny Wilkinson was often linked with NFL teams at the height of his England fame and Jonah Lomu was supposed to become a Dallas Cowboy. Go as far back as the 1991 London Monarchs and you will see stories about the great Ellery Hanley trying to switch sports.

But this story has some validity, especially when you see mention of young players such as Courtney Lawes, Anthony Watson and Owen Farrell. All three would have a legitimate shot at chasing any NFL dreams they might have and if it didn’t work out, they could still return to the UK and be part of the England team well ahead of the 2019 World Cup.

Switching sports is no longer as ridiculous as it might seem. Britain’s own Lawrence Okoye has gone from the Olympics discus final in 2012 to defensive lineman for the Arizona Cardinals and Jarryd Hayne called time on his lucrative rugby league career and is now returning kicks for the San Francisco 49ers.

There has also been a rugby cross-over in recent years with Kenyan sevens star Daniel Odongo joining the Indianapolis Colts. If Umenyiora and the NFL UK office can persuade some of England’s star performers to give the NFL a shot, the 32 teams in America will certainly be more receptive than they have ever been before.

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