The Buffalo Bills are going international in hopes of finding a hidden gem. The team announced Monday that former British rugby player Christian Wade has been allocated as part of the International Player Pathway program.
Wade, who is 5-foot-9 and 196 pounds, gave up rugby last October in hopes of pursuing an NFL career and began training for football as a running back/kick returner.
The native of Slough, England played for the London Wasps for his entire pro career and represented his country in international competitions in U16, U18 and U20 for Rugby Union. He has 82 premierships, according to a news release, which ranks third on the rugby all-time list. (Think of premierships as scoring plays.)
A life-changing moment!
— NFL UK (@NFLUK) April 8, 2019
Wade, 27, was timed in 4.53 seconds for the 40-yard dash at the program's pro day on April 1 in Tampa.
"There’s a lot to learn but I've definitely been trying to soak up as much as I can, make so many notes and watching more film to back up what I’m learning," Wade told ESPN UK. "It’s been fun and it’s a sort of challenge I’ve been looking for. It’s definitely been a struggle sometimes and I know it’s going to be a struggle in the future. But I definitely have the work ethic to give it everything and get what I need down.”
The International Player Pathway program is an NFL initiative started in 2017 with the intent of giving elite international athletes the opportunity to cross over to football. Wade is among seven athletes selected this year, representing England, Australia, Germany, Mexico and Brazil.
The players have been training at IMG Academy in Florida. Players could have been signed as free agents or allocated to NFL teams.
Under the terms of the program, Wade is exempt from the Bills' 90-man roster, but would count against the 53-man roster should he make the team. Should a team opt to continue to develop a player beyond training camp, he would be eligible for an international player practice squad exemption. That player would not be eligible to be activated during the season.