Former rugby player the 'Scottish Hammer' set to start for the Browns in the NFL
Whilst all rugby eyes on the NFL have been focused on Christian Wade of late, as well as former England 7s international Alex Gray and ex-Worcester Warrior Christian Scotland-Williamson, another rugby player has quietly been making moves in the league.
Jamie Gillan, or as he is otherwise known, the Scottish Hammer, is just a day away from his professional debut.
Wade, in his first year on the International Player Pathway programme, was unsurprisingly cut recently, as the Buffalo Bills stripped their roster down to the requisite size of 53, with Wade taking a place on their practice squad.
The former Wasps flyer has two years of eligibility on the practice squad, with the Bills sanctioned to carry an extra player as part of the programme, on the proviso they do not promote him to the active roster during the regular season.
Scotland-Williamson has the same designation with the Pittsburgh Steelers, whilst Gray is currently on the reserve/injured list at the Atlanta Falcons.
As ex-rugby professionals, all have drawn significant interest in their current career moves, although Gillan, who turned from rugby to American football whilst he was still in school, is in the frame for an important role with the Cleveland Browns this season.
The Browns picked up Gillan as an undrafted rookie earlier this year, with the 22-year-old not being drafted following the conclusion of his four years as a punter at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. According to reports, Gillan ruined three footballs with the strength of his punting during one pre-draft workout, but despite that impressive feat and a strong collegiate career, the Scot still went unselected in the 2019 NFL Draft. That is not unusual for punters, kickers and other special teams contributors, though, with very few teams putting a high enough premium on the positions to invest picks, particularly high ones, on them during the annual seven-round draft.
A former rugby player at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, where he would have played alongside the likes of Zach Mercer and Stafford McDowall, Gillan moved to the US in 2014, where he attended Leonardtown High School in Maryland. From there, he received a scholarship offer to attend Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Gillan was recruited by the Browns shortly after the NFL Draft and from there has gone on to win the starting punting job at the franchise, displacing Britton Colquitt, who was a member of the Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncos side back in 2016. The 34-year-old was also a Pro Bowl alternate last season, singling him out as one of the best punters in the league.
Colquitt was cut last month, though, as Gillan did enough in his first ever professional preseason to convince the Browns coaching staff and GM John Dorsey that he is ready to start in the NFL.
The Browns have long been one of the NFL’s perennially disappointing franchises, although a host of draft picks in the last couple of seasons, as well as finding a potential franchise quarterback in the form of Baker Mayfield, has the side on a promising and upward trajectory of late, something which Gillan will now get the chance to contribute to.
The former Merchiston Castle School pupil will get his first opportunity on Sunday, when the Browns host the Tennessee Titans in their regular season opener.
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