How Many Players In Rugby Have Played NFL?

A few months back, I wrote an article where I selected NFL players I’d pick for a rugby team. This got me wondering about rugby players who switched to football and reached the NFL, the top level.

Let’s explore NFL players who started with rugby, showing that this switch is definitely possible:

Gary Anderson

He started playing rugby when he was growing up in South Africa before becoming one of the best NFL kickers ever. He played for a long time, about twenty years, for teams like the Steelers, Eagles, 49ers, Vikings, and Titans.

Stewart Bradley

Back in high school, he was part of the Highland Rugby Club in Utah and they won three national championships. Later, he switched to football at the University of Nebraska. He played as a linebacker for seven years in the NFL with the Eagles, Cardinals, and Broncos.

David Dixon

He started with rugby back in his home country, New Zealand, and then he got into football when he went to college at Arizona State University. After that, he had a career spanning 11 years in the NFL, mostly as a guard, and he played mainly for the Minnesota Vikings.

Nate Ebner

A lot of rugby fans in the United States know about Ebner. He used to play rugby for Ohio State in college, and then he joined the football team as a walk-on. He’s been an important player for the Patriots for the past ten years. These days, he’s with the New York Giants. He even represented the U.S. in rugby at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Alex Gray

This English player, who’s a big guy and played as a center or No. 8, was part of the Premiership in England. He played for teams like Newcastle and the London Irish, and he was also on the England 7s team. After that, he came to the U.S. to give the NFL a shot. He managed to join the Atlanta Falcons’ practice group in 2017, thanks to the NFL International Players Pathway program. He’s been with the practice squad ever since.

Paul Lasike

This big guy from BYU started his sports journey with rugby in New Zealand. Later, he went to BYU and joined their rugby team. But then, he switched over to football and ended up playing for the Chicago Bears for two seasons. He even got the chance to start in 10 games. Now, he’s back to rugby, playing as a centre. He’s doing this for both the United States and the Harlequins in the English Premiership.

Haloti Ngata

Ngata was into football from a young age, but he was also quite a skilled rugby player. He played rugby for Highland Rugby Club during his high school days in Utah. He even led them to the national championship game. Alongside his rugby success, he was a highly sought-after football player. He continued his football journey at the University of Oregon and went on to have an outstanding career in the NFL. He’s mostly known for his time with the Baltimore Ravens and is considered one of the top nose tackles of this era.

Stephen Paea 

Originally from New Zealand and raised in Tonga, Paea had a strong passion for rugby and dreamed of playing for the All Blacks someday. Yet, his family moved to the United States, where he switched to football. He played in college at Oregon State and then went on to spend six years in the NFL as a defensive tackle. He played for teams like the Bears, Redskins, Browns, and Cowboys.

Christian Scotland-Williamson

This English player, who used to be in the second row in rugby, spent time in the Premiership with Worcester from 2014 to 2017. He gained attention when a tackle he made became widely popular online. This led him to consider the NFL, and he decided to give it a shot. He got his chance through the International Players Pathway program, and he secured a place on the practice squad for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s still with them to this day.

Hayden Smith

Originally from Australia, he was into basketball during his upbringing. He moved to the U.S. for college and played basketball at Metro State in Colorado. While there, he started playing rugby to stay in shape, and he quickly became a standout player in the U.S. He caught the attention of Saracens in England, where he played for seven years. In 2012, he gave the NFL a shot and tried out. Surprisingly, he made it as a tight end for the New York Jets and played a single season for them.

Isaac Sopoaga

Coming from American Samoa, Sopoaga had a diverse sports background in his early days. He was into rugby, basketball, baseball, and football during his youth. He went on to play college football at the University of Hawaii, and after that, he had a ten-year career in the NFL. His main role was as a nose guard, and he spent most of his time with the San Francisco 49ers.

Richard Tardits

When he was young, Tardits played rugby for the French Junior National Team. Later, he decided to join the football team at the University of Georgia as a defensive end. He earned the nickname “Le Sack” for his ability to make quarterback sacks.He had the record for the most sacks during his time at Georgia until it was surpassed 15 years later in 2004.Tardits also spent three years in the NFL, playing for the New England Patriots.

Christian Wade

Wade is known as the fourth top try-scorer in the English Premiership, having scored many points. He played for Wasps for eight years before deciding to try his luck in the NFL. He got a chance with the Buffalo Bills during their offseason activities and really caught people’s attention in the preseason with some impressive long runs. While he was on the practice squad in 2019, he’s still determined to earn a spot on the main roster for 2020.


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