Welsh rugby star Louis Rees-Zammit has left the rugby world in disbelief as he bids farewell to the sport, opting to pursue a career in the National Football League (NFL). The 22-year-old winger’s decision comes on the heels of an offer from the NFL’s International Player Pathway programme, with Gloucester swiftly granting his release.
Rees-Zammit’s announcement, strategically timed just before Warren Gatland unveiled the 2024 Six Nations squad, has ignited a fervent debate among fans and pundits alike. While Gatland expressed his surprise at the timing, he wished the young athlete success in his new endeavour, acknowledging the boldness of his decision.
However, not everyone shares Gatland’s sentiments. Critics, both among fans and pundits, have questioned the wisdom of Rees-Zammit’s move. Some skeptics doubt his chances of breaking into the NFL, portraying his leap as a significant gamble and even suggesting it reflects poorly on the state of rugby.
Enter Andy Goode, an outspoken figure in the rugby community, who swiftly defended Rees-Zammit against detractors. Goode took to X on Tuesday night, stating, “Whoever thinks that Louis Rees-Zammit chasing his dream of playing in the NFL is a bad reflection on rugby needs to give their head a wobble!” He expressed anticipation in watching the young Welshman pursue his dream, urging him to “go smash it!”
In response, Rees-Zammit, appreciative of the support, fired back at his critics, saying, “Don’t get why people can’t just be happy that I’m chasing my dreams. But hey ho life moves on and adds a bit of motivation.”
The winger, with 32 caps for Wales and a tour with the British and Irish Lions under his belt, reflected on the painstaking decision to step away from rugby at the peak of his international career. In an interview with Gloucester, he revealed that his father’s love for American football and the desire to “continue his legacy” played a pivotal role in the move.
“It’s nothing about rugby; it’s an ambition to make my dream come true and play in the National Football League,” Rees-Zammit stated. “As a little boy, my dad always brought me up to be a big NFL fan. He used to play American football. It’s about continuing his legacy and going beyond, making him proud.”
The Welsh sensation is set to depart for Florida later this week, embarking on a 10-week intensive camp. At the end of this period, he will discover whether he has what it takes to secure a spot in the NFL, with the season commencing in August. Rees-Zammit expressed excitement about the upcoming challenge, eager to turn his childhood dreams into reality.
Louis Rees-Zammit’s journey from the rugby pitch to the NFL promises to be a captivating narrative, as he faces not only the challenges of a new sport but also the opinions of a divided audience back home. Only time will tell if the Welsh winger can translate his prowess on the rugby field into success on the American football stage.