Rees-Zammit, the rugby star chasing the Super Bowl in the NFL

The NFL never ceases to amaze us with its stories of overcoming. The most recent takes us to Wales, where a rugby player named Louis Rees-Zammit has become one of the stories of the year by signing for the Kansas City Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes’ team and champions of the last two editions of the Super Bowl.

That’s right, the 23-year-old star will swap the protections of rugby for the helmet and armor of American football, a transition somewhat more common in kickers but very difficult to see in other field positions, as is this case. Despite some similarities between the two sports, in practice, they are light years apart.

World Rugby Star
At 1.91 meters and 98 kilos, Rees-Zammit was until recently a rugby player for Gloucester in the English Premiership, being one of the great emerging stars of the sport in the islands and a reference with his country. At 18 years and 70 days, he became the youngest player in the team’s history to appear in a top-flight match, a boy destined for greatness. At the international level, he played for Wales 32 times and scored 14 tries, making his debut in the 2020 Six Nations months after his first call-up with the ‘Red Dragons’, who were close to reaching the semi-finals of the last World Cup in France 2023.

The news broke on January 16, when Louis announced his intention to leave rugby – which he had practiced since he was a child – to join the International Player Pathway Program, an initiative of the NFL to promote the entry of great athletes to the league from countries other than the United States or Canada, the two main powers in this discipline.

Others such as Alex Gray, Christian Wade, or Scotland-Williamson followed the same path as Rees-Zammit but did not make their official debut with their teams.

A ‘candy’ for Patrick Mahomes
The former Gloucester wing will go on to play for none other than the best team in the NFL, Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs, who have been crowned in the past two editions of the Super Bowl. This was reported by Ian Rappoport in ‘X’, assuring that the Welshman will sign a 3-year contract with the team led by Andy Reid. According to NFL scouts, Louis impressed many teams during the 10 weeks he was training and was crowned on Pro Day, running 4.44 seconds for the 40-yard dash, the main and most decisive test for physically gifted players. A brilliant brand. The Browns and Jets scheduled private workouts with him, but the Chiefs were the most ambitious.

Beyond this story, this signing seems to have fallen from the sky because of the needs of both. Rees-Zammit joins the NFL’s dominant franchise in the past five years, winning the championship three times (2020, 2022, and 2023) and reaching four finals in a matter of five seasons. Kansas aims to cement a league dynasty similar to that of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady since the turn of the century, with six rings in their trophy cabinet.

A ‘monster’ in the running game
While Mahomes and his Chiefs are unrivaled when the playoffs begin, the past two seasons have punished a lack of talent in the receiver room, a roster of players that cries out for speed and mastery with the ball in their hands, or passing situations. That’s what they’ll try to look for with the addition of Louis, a beast of nature capable of asphalting their defenders. He has shown this in the Premiership, and Arrowhead will expect nothing less from him.

The ‘jewel’ of Penarth, five kilometers south of Cardiff, is expected to play running back, perhaps the most abused position in the NFL right now. Louis Rees-Zammit excels at running the ball and in Kansas, he will partner in the backfield with Isiah Pacheco, a player who has made a name for himself in the United States for his aggressiveness in the running game.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Welshman receiving passes from Patrick Mahomes through the air either, given his good hands and prodigious physique. Nowadays positions in American football are becoming more homogeneous and it is very common to see a running back catching balls on short routes, so Louis could be a dual weapon for Andy Reid’s Chiefs. Another use it could have is as a returner for special teams in the new kickoffs that the NFL will implement starting next season, a rule that tries to protect the physical integrity of players.

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