Best American football players to hail from the world of rugby - The Rugby Observer

Best American football players to hail from the world of rugby

Rugby Editorial 27th Feb, 2023 Updated: 14th Mar, 2023   0

There are many similarities between rugby and American football, and it’s certainly true that skilled players of one sport are often able to transition towards playing the other with relative ease.

Sports betting fans that like to research the most prominent players thoroughly will often find that a player’s successful rugby career is a good indicator of how well they will perform on the American football field.

Some of the most successful rugby players to transition to American football include:


Daniel Faalele

Originally from Melbourne in Australia, Daniel Faalele was spotted by scouts in 2017 and he made the move to the NFL shortly afterward. Although he is an incredibly skilled player, one of the most notable things about Faalele is his sheer size.

Standing at six feet eight inches, and weighing in at more than 380 pounds, Faalele certainly has the physical presence to assert himself on the football field. He has been noted as the heaviest player in the NFL since joining the Baltimore Ravens, and his strength, skill, and speed combine to make him a real force to be reckoned with.


David Tukatahi Dixon

Although he is now in retirement, David Tukatahi Dixon is arguably one of the most successful athletes to move from the world of rugby to that of the NFL. Hailing from New Zealand originally, Dixon was the second Maori to play in the NFL, earning a Super Bowl ring when he was part of the Dallas Cowboys practice squad.

He played rugby from his early teens in New Zealand, competing for his high school in the 1980s before turning his attention to football. He originally attended Ricks college in Idaho, before moving to Arizona to attend the state university there, and finally ending up in Minnesota.

He played as an offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings for more than ten years and played a huge part in their success during this time, but he was injured several times which forced him into retirement in 2004.


Nathan Ebner

While there are plenty of players who move from the world of rugby to that of the NFL, there are those that manage to balance their enthusiasm for both. Nathan Ebner has managed just this, playing for the United States national Rugby Sevens team as well as a safety and special teamer in the NFL.

He competed in the 2007 and 2008 IRB junior world rugby championships, then played as a special teamer for the Ohio State Buckeyes college football between 2009 and 2011. He played for the Patriots in 2012 after being drafted in the sixth round and went on to win Super Bowl rings in 2015, 2017, and 2019.

He also competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics, playing for the US rugby sevens team, demonstrating that he was more than able to retain his prowess in both disciplines.


Hayden Smith

One of the most unusual routes to the NFL must surely come from Hayden Smith who began his sporting career playing basketball with the Sydney Kings NBL team in Australia.

His sporting achievements were enough to earn him a scholarship to study finance at the New York Institute of Technology, but he then transferred to Denver where he started playing rugby to keep fit outside the basketball season.

He played with the Denver Barbarians for a season in 2008, then moved to the UK to play for the Saracens where he made it to the first-team squad before going on to play in more than forty matches. He continued to represent the US in international rugby until 2011 when he took a break to try his hand at football.

After training with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys, the New Orleans Saints, and the Washington Redskins, he finally signed with the New York Jets in 2012.


Christian Wade

Not all crossovers are as successful, and some rugby players never fully settle in the NFL.

Having played for one of the most prestigious rugby teams in the UK, the Wasps, Christian Wade joined the NFL, playing as a running back for the Buffalo Bills. During his first ever play, he scored a touchdown with a 65-yard run, but it was a short-lived success as he only ever made the practice squad after that.

Having been released from his contract in Buffalo, Christian Wade actually left the NFL and returned to the world of rugby, taking up a position with French club Racing 92.

There are many similarities between the two sports, so it will come as no surprise to fans of either that there is some movement between the two sports. Those with the strength, speed, and skill to succeed in rugby still find training with the NFL grueling, but the prospect of playing for some of the most prestigious teams in the world will always hold a certain appeal.

Article written by Vineet Maheshwari


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