Former English rugby player Christian Wade was allocated to the Buffalo Bills, and three other players also landed with AFC East teams as part of the NFL's International Player Pathway Program, the league announced on Monday. Former Australian rugby player Valentine Holmes was assigned to the New York Jets. Former University of Tennessee tight end Jakob Johnson was placed with the New England Patriots, and Brazilian judo champion Durval Queiroz Neto was allocated to the Miami Dolphins.
The 5-foot-8, 190-pound Wade was a highly decorated rugby star in the United Kingdom, having played for the national team at the U16, U18 and U20 levels, as well as making the British and Irish Lions squad. He retired from the rugby union last year to pursue playing in the NFL. Wade's 82 tries (touchdowns) in Premiership Rugby, mostly as a ball-carrier, is third all-time and he has been designated as a running back with the Bills.
Wade, 27, was one of seven international athletes from five countries who have been training in Florida with the goal of landing one of four placements among AFC East teams this offseason. He participated in a pro day last week, where he was timed at 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Holmes, 23, was a winger and fullback in Australia's National Rugby League. He also was part of the Australian team in the 2017 Rugby World Cup, scoring five tries in the semifinals. Holmes is listed as a running back/wide receiver/kick returner.
Johnson, 24, played for the Stuttgart Scorpions of the German Football League before finishing high school in Florida. He then attended the University of Tennessee for four years, where he was a tight end and fullback. Neto, 25, played for two Brazilian football teams. He is listed as a defensive tackle.
The Bills, Jets, Patriots and Dolphins will be allowed to carry an extra player (91 total) during training camp, and should the player not make the final roster, will also receive an extra practice squad spot for the allotted player. However, those placed on the practice squad with the international player exemption will be ineligible to be activated during the season. The International Player Pathway Program began in 2017 and rotates through divisions each year.
--Field Level Media
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