NY Jets eyeing potential hidden gem in this former rugby star

Hayden Smith 2.0?

Louis Rees-Zammit
Louis Rees-Zammit / Patrick Khachfe/GettyImages

The NY Jets are keeping their eye out for talented players to add to their roster this offseason. From free agency to the trade market to the 2024 NFL Draft, the Jets are scouring the available pool of players to find ways to upgrade their roster.

The team is also considering an outside-the-box international approach as well. The Jets are reportedly one of two NFL teams set to meet with former Welsh rugby star Louis Rees-Zammit.

Rees-Zammit is exploring a move to the NFL after seven years spent playing for Gloucester Rugby in England. The 23-year-old was Gloucester's youngest European player in club history and also represented his home country, Wales, internationally.

The Jets met with Rees-Zammit on Friday following the Wales native's successful "pro day" on Wednesday. Rees-Zammit is attempting to start his American Football career through the NFL's International Player Pathway program, and the Jets and Cleveland Browns have both organized official visits to this point.

What is the NFL's International Player Pathway program and how does it impact the NY Jets?

The International Player Pathway program (IPP) has been around since 2017 and boasts a number of successful NFL players including Philadelphia Eagles star left tackle Jordan Mailata and Washington Commanders pass rusher Efe Obada.

Starting in 2024, all 32 NFL teams will be able to sign one player through the IPP program to fill an unofficial 17th spot on their practice squad — a spot reserved for an international player.

IPP players are treated the same as any practice squad player. They can be elevated to the active roster a maximum of three times throughout the season before they're forced to be signed to the 53-man roster.

Another added benefit is that IPP players don't count toward the 90-man training camp roster limit. Essentially, there's no downside to any team rostering an international player.

At 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, Rees-Zammit ran a 4.44 40-yard dash at his NFL workout. It's unclear what position he would play in the NFL, but his play style has been compared to players like Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel.

The Jets have prior experience with former rugby stars-turned-NFL-hopefuls. Australian-born tight end Hayden Smith had a stint with the Jets in 2012 and 2023, hauling in one career pass for 16 yards.

More recently, the Jets signed former Australian rugby standout Valentine Holmes through the NFL's IPP program in 2019. Holmes spent the summer of 2019 and some of the regular season with the Jets before being released from the practice squad in November. He never appeared in an NFL game.

Rees-Zammit is the latest individual to attempt this cross-sport transition. He very well could be the Jets' international player this season. The hype around him is real.