I, like many of you, was a little shocked when the Jets announced the signing of rugby player Hayden Smith, the former Saracens forward put pen to paper on a three year contract ($355,000 a year, $100,000 guaranteed).
Smith becomes the 9th player to make the transition from rugby to the NFL, be it during their time at high school, college or in a professional capacity and you,ve guessed it, I've delved into who the other players are and the sort of impact they had within the NFL.
Before we go into the list, I thought I'd take a closer look at Hayden Smith. At 6ft 7" 265lbs, its fair to say this guy's a beast, born in Penrith, Australia, Smith is no stranger to the states, as he accepted a basketball scholarship at Metro State, before going onto play rugby for Saracens in 2008 making 43 appearances before joining the gang green. Smith represented the USA 18 times, including 4 appearances in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
One thing that crops up over and over is Smiths work ethic, his obvious physical prowess and while I expect him to spend the majority of the 2012 season on the bench as an understudy to likes of Keller, Baker and Cumberland he comes as a minimum risk to the Jets, a so-called rough diamond. With Darrell Revis's contract the main issue this time next year, it's good to see the Jets adding vital components and depth to the team for a small hit on the cap, this you have to applaud.
As promised the 8 others that have made the transistion from Rugby to NFL.
Terry Price (Kicker)
Represented the British Lions and Wales at international level, whilst playing Rugby for Llanelli RFU. Price went onto to become a kicker for the Buffalo Bills during the 1970's
Colin Scotts (Defensive End, Tight End)
A member of the Australian school boys Rugby team, Scott became the first Australian not only to receive a football scholarship but to also be selected in the draft. Scotts was selected in the 3rd round of the 1987 draft by the St Louis Cardinals. (later traded to Houston Oilers) He played DE and TE during his time in the NFL.
David Dixon (Guard)
Represented New Zealand at under 19's level before switching to the NFL. Selected in the 9th round of the 1992 draft by the New England Patriots, Dixon spent 11 years within the NFL, playing for the Vikings, (2 separate occasions) and the Cowboys.
Richard Tardits (Linebacker)
Refered to as 'Le Sack' due to his French heritage. Tardits would play Rugby on Friday afternoons unbeknown to his coaches before attending football practice. He represented France at under 21 level. Drafted by the Phoenix Cardinals in the 1989 draft, Tardits went on to spend 2 season with the Pats before switching back to Rugby. He went onto to represent the United States.
Gary Anderson (kicker)
A name you'll know as Anderson was the first player in NFL history to have a perfect season converting all 35 field goal attempts and all 59 extra points during the 1998 season with the Vikings. Anderson was born in Durban, Australia where he played Rugby throughout his school life. His glittering NFL career consisted of 4 pro bowl appearances, 12 seasons in Pittsburgh (voted MVP 1983) and he also played for the 49ers, Eagles and Vikings.
Steve Tasker (WR, Gunner)
Named MVP at the Big Ten Conference tournament as part of his schools Rugby team. Tasker featured mainly on special teams as a Gunner despite being listed as a WR. He went onto become one of the greatest special teams players to grace the game, renown for his hard hits and incredible speed. Tasker was selected to the Pro Bowl and named All Pro 7 times in addition to been named as the MVP of the 1992 Pro Bowl. Tasker is now a broadcaster on CBS.
Haloti Ngata (Defensive End)
The current Raven, who'll will be known for his $15,000 fine for roughing the passer during last season, played Rugby during High School for the Highland Rugby Club, helping them to the National Rugby Championship. Ngata was selected by the Ravens as the 12th overall pick of the 2006 draft.
Stewart Bradley (linebacker)
Bradley played in the same Rugby team Haloti Ngata (above). He went onto to win 3 straight National Championships with the Highland Rigby club, before being selected by the Eagles in the 3rd round of the 2007 draft.
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