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Former NFL tight end becomes Major League Rugby's latest signing

By Alex Shaw
Ryan Smith is hit by Jalen Elliott after a first down catch at Notre Dame Stadium (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

There has been a growing number of players transitioning from rugby to the American football in recent years, Christian Wade the latest to make the move.


The former Wasps wing has been assigned to the Buffalo Bills and will be a part of the NFL’s international player pathway programme for the 2019 season, joining both Christian Scotland-Williamson and Alex Gray in making the most of the opportunity that has been afforded to elite athletes from outside the United States.

Athletes transitioning the other way have tended to be less high-profile, although Paul Lasike, previously a full-back with the Chicago Bears, signed up with Harlequins this season. Former Washington linebacker Psalm Wooching had trials in Europe, too, before signing with San Diego Legion and winning multiple caps for the US national team.

Another name is set to be added to this list, with Old Glory DC, one of the expansion teams in the MLR for the 2020 season, securing the signature of Ryan Smith.

Smith, 23, graduated from Miami (Ohio) in 2018, the same college that produced future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, signing up with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent. Like Lasike, who has made a success of the transition, Smith has a history of playing rugby prior to his NFL stint.

At 6 foot 4ins and weighing in at over 18 stone, Smith should bring impressive physical stature and ability to the MLR when his new club join the fast-growing competition next year.


Old Glory DC are not the only team set to be added in 2020, with New England Free Jacks and Rugby ATL also set to join and the tournament set to adopt an east and west coast conference format. This expansion follows Rugby United New York and Toronto Arrows being added this year in what is just the MLR’s second season.

It was Lasike’s performances on the Utah Warriors roster in 2018 that caught the attention of Harlequins and now Smith will get a similar opportunity to press his claim for a stint in Europe if he can perform at a high level in the US capital next season, especially with the Scottish Rugby Union having invested in the fledgling franchise and almost certain to keep a close eye on his development.

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