Sports stars who tried to join the NFL – Can Tottenham star Harry Kane be more successful when he retires?

4 Sep

The new NFL season starts on Thursday night with the Chicago Bears taking on the Green Bay Packers.

It is the 100th anniversary season in the NFL with plenty of celebrations planned throughout the year.

One of the biggest storylines throughout the summer has been the Bears’ kicker situation.

Cody Parkey was cut by the Chicago Bears after his field goal miss
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Cody Parkey was brutally axed after his ‘double-doink’ missed field goal sent Chicago out of the playoffs.

Head coach Matt Nagy set about his search for a new kicker with nine eventually whittled down to one, Eddy Pineiro.

Being an NFL kicker is one of the highest pressure positions in all of sport.

Tottenham star Harry Kane has previously spoken of his desire to try out as a kicker once he is done with football.

Kane is a huge New England Patriots fans and will no doubt want to see Tom Brady claim a seventh Super Bowl victory this season.

The England captain would not be the first to try and convert to the NFL from a different sport.

Several have tried in the past, with varying degrees of success, while there are some currently trying to make it onto a team’s roster.

Here at, we have taken a look at the biggest stars who have tried to make the transition.

Christian Wade

The former rugby union star caught the eye for the Buffalo Bills during the pre-season with some blistering runs at running back, including a 65-yard touchdown on debut.

The 28-year-old quit rugby in October 2018 to pursue an NFL career and the early signs are promising.

He was cut by the Bills but that is not the end of the road just yet. Wade can be picked up by another team on the waivers.

Christian Wade impressed with the Buffalo Bills during pre-season
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If that does not happen then he can join the Bills’ 10-man practice squad where he can be called up to play at any point.

There is also another option to make him an exempt 11th member of the squad, because of his involvement with the International Player Pathway programme, but he would not be able to play in 2019.

It would give him the chance to develop his skills for another year and give him a greater chance of making a roster next season.

Alex Gray

The 28-year-old is another player to come through the International Player Pathway programme and is a rugby union convert.

He played for Newcastle Falcons and London Irish before switching sports to the NFL to become a tight-end in 2017.

Since then he has been a member of the Falcons’ practice squad and played in several pre-season games.

In January, he signed a two-year reserve futures contract but has so far not been able to make their 53-man roster.

Jordan Mailata

The 22-year-old was a rising star in rugby league in Australia and had played for South Sydney Under-20s before the NFL came calling.

After seeing clips of him playing rugby, he was invited to tryout for the International Player Pathway programme.

He went to Florida to train at the IMG Academy and impressed with his speed and power, especially for a man who is 6ft 8in and weighs 346lbs.

Jordan Mailata was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018
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The Philadelphia Eagles drafted him in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft as an offensive tackle and signed a four-year contract.

Mailata was just the second person to ever be drafted with no American high school or college experience.

In his rookie year, he was place on injured reserve in December without featuring in any games.

Lawrence Okoye

The 27-year-old was talented in multiple sports as a teenager while attending Whitgift School.

He played rugby union as a winger and was part of the London Irish and Wasps academy.

Okoye found success as a discus thrower and won gold at the 2011 Under-23 European Championships.

He reached the final of the discus at London 2012 but finished a disappointing 12th. He also still holds the British record with a throw of 68.24m.

Lawrence Okoye did not make the grade in the NFL
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Okoye announced he would try and play in the NFL and was signed to several practice squads including the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears.

Cards head coach Bruce Arians cut Okoye because he parked in his parking space, as shown on the Amazon Prime All or Nothing series.

He then went on to play in the CFL and later the AAF, before the league was shut down earlier this year.

Hayden Smith

The Australian played rugby union in the English Premiership for Saracens before moving to NFL in 2012.

He was signed to the New York Jets practice squad and promoted to their active roster for the 2012 season as a receiver.

Smith was then released in 2013 and returned to rugby with Saracens and currently plays for Esher RFC.

The 34-year-old was also a talented basketball player and played power forward at college in America.

Valentine Holmes

Holmes is another Australian rugby league player who joined the International Player Pathway programme.

The former Australia international made appearances for the Jets in the 2019 pre-season but missed out on a spot in their 53-man roster.

He was added to their practice squad earlier this month and plays as a running back and return specialist.

Valentine Holmes signed with the New York Jets to their practice squad
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Jarryd Hayne

The 31-year-old was a rugby league star in Australia who played for both Australia and Fiji during a successful career.

In 2015, he announced his intention to join the NFL and managed to make the 49ers’ roster in the same year.

Hayne made his debut against the Minnesota Vikings in week one but was waived by the team in October.

He retired in 2016 and went back to rugby.

Jarryd Hayne’s career in the NFL was short lived
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Dwain Chambers

Chambers was a British sprinting star before testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003.

After serving his ban, he returned to Athletics but struggled to replicate the same times as before.

He expressed an interest in switching to American Football and signed a contract with NFL Europa side Hamburg Sea Devils in 2007.

Dwain Chambers tried American Football following his drug ban
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A stress fracture ruled him out in his first season and the NFL closed the league later that year.

Chambers again retuned to athletics and tried his hand at rugby league.

Clive Allen

The former Tottenham, QPR, Manchester City and West Ham striker was prolific in front of goal.

He retired from playing in the 1995/96 season but that did not end his role in professional sport.

Allen played several games for NFL Europa team the London Monarchs as a kicker in 1997.

Clive Allen was a kicker with the London Monarchs in 1997
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Christian Wade scores 65-yard touchdown for Buffalo Bills in NFL pre-season game

9 Aug

With his first touch of the ball in his first ever American football game, Christian Wade scored a 65-yard touchdown.

The former Wasps and England rugby union man’s score helped the Buffalo Bills record a 24-16 pre-season win over the Indianapolis Colts.

After the game, he said: “I don’t even know the score! First win, at home, I’m so happy right now and appreciate all the support so far. Let’s get this season started!”

Reflecting on his touchdown, the running back said: “I knew where I was going even before the ball came because they overloaded one side then as soon as I got the ball I was off to the races.

“I was looking up at the screen to see if any of the linebackers or anyone was coming up behind me.”

Wade, who switched sports last year, to pursue a career in the NFL, was later presented with the match ball by Bills head coach Sean McDermott and the social media team joked their Twitter handle would be a ‘Christian Wade fan account’.

“I have greater appreciation for what he’s trying to accomplish here, and the attitude hasn’t change,” McDermott said. “I mentioned this earlier in the process with his attitude, his energy, his smile. He has great joy and I think that’s infectious. I think it affects our team, and I think it’s for the better.”

Bills quarterback Josh Allen said: “Huge congratulations to Christian Wade.

“Watching him score that touchdown was one of the coolest experiences of my football career and I wasn’t even on the field.”

The Bills’ regular season begins on 8 September against the New York Jets.

Wade scored 82 tries during his rugby union career, but was released by Wasps to chase his NFL dream in 2018
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