Ex-England rugby union international Christian Wade announced last week that he is pursuing an American football career.
Wade retired from rugby union earlier this week having won one England cap five years ago and having scored 82 Premiership tries for Wasps – the second-most in the competition’s history.
The 27-year-old is now switching sports and hopes to make it in the NFL via the International Player Pathway program.
The International Pathway Program is focused on identifying foreign players who show potential talent to play in the NFL and allows an extra place on NFL practice squads for players from overseas or a non-American football background to have a crack at the NFL.
Wade, who was at Wembley on Sunday to watch the Jacksonville Jaguars face the Philadelphia Eagles, told Sky Sports: “It’s been a very difficult decision for me, giving up my career in rugby.
“Wasps have been so incredible to me, they’ve looked after me from the age of 16 all the way up to now and the fans have been great, the RFU have been great as well.
“Like I said, it’s been a very difficult decision for me to leave but I’ve now got the opportunity to go into the [International] Player Pathway program like you’ve seen some of the other guys do. It’s something that I don’t take lightly.
“I’m going to be starting my training regime literally next week and it’s a huge mountain to climb. There’s so much to learn in such a small space of time but for me I’ve always been someone who’s always given it 100 per cent and my aim is to give it the best I can and hopefully I can try and compete with these guys in the NFL.
“There’s some phenomenal athletes but I believe in my skills and hopefully I’m good enough.”
Last week speaking to RugbyPass, USA 7s star Perry Baker said that Wade has a mountain to climb to make the NFL.
Baker said: “I think it is harder to go from rugby union to football than the other way around.
“The problem coming over to the NFL is the understanding of the league and the play-book. The speed of the game plus the knowledge of the play-book and reading a defensive set up are the things that could hinder him. Christian will be up against a lot of college players coming into the game next season along with guys who get cut from their current team and are looking for new contracts.
“Everyone believes they can make it but it is so hard to get that opportunity to join a 53 strong roster for one of the NFL teams. So, it would be a huge achievement just to make the practise team because they won’t know anything about him in America. There are a lot of hurdles to clear just to get a chance.
“The playbook is a huge mass of data and it is added to every week with new ideas to deal with the defence in the next game. There are so many plays in each game and you have to study them all the time and that is why team’s have so many meetings in the week – a ton of them. You are constantly writing in your notepad, studying all the moves. Not having been part of a pre-season is really tough for Christian and there will be a lot of catching up to be done.”
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Former Newcastle Falcon Alex Gray has paved the way to an extent for Wade. Gray found himself out of contract in 2017 with English Championship side Yorkshire Carnegie.
With nothing to lose, he decided through his agent to opt for the unorthodox move across the pond and the bright lights of the NFL.
“Completely tongue-in-cheek I said, ‘If nothing comes up that we like shall we just go to the NFL and make a load of money’,” Gray told Press Association Sport.
Two weeks later by chance the NFL would come knocking, as part of their International Player Pathway program.
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