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Packers to have visit with former rugby star on Thursday

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By: Justis Mosqueda

Photo by Bob Bradford – CameraSport via Getty Images

At 6’3” and 209 pounds with 4.43 speed, Louis Rees-Zammit is an interesting project for the NFL.

According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Green Bay Packers will bring former rugby star Louis Rees-Zammit in on a free-agent visit on Thursday. Rees-Zammit played for the rugby union club Gloucester Rugby in England as well as with the Welsh national team. The 23-year-old made the transition to football in January when he decided to enroll in the NFL’s International Player Pathways Program, which is a 10-week crash course for athletes transitioning to the sport.

Packers fans may be familiar with the International Player Pathways Program, which helped produce pass-rusher Kenneth Odumegwu in the 2023 class. Odumegwu, originally a soccer player from Nigeria who eventually transitioned to basketball and then football, was allocated to Green Bay last offseason. IPP players are given a 90-man roster exemption and a practice squad exemption during the regular season for three seasons once they are allocated to teams. If you want to read more about that process, read the article we wrote on the subject last May.

According to a league source, Rees-Zammit is actually eligible to sign as a free agent immediately, as he’s already completed his pro day — which was on March 20th — and is a non-draft-eligible player. This is a new rule for the IPP program this year, as teams previously had to wait for allocation to add athletes who were not in the draft pool.

The Packers are not the only team that will visit with Rees-Zammit, though, as he’s also picked up trips to Denver, Kansas City, Cleveland and New York (Jets) since running a 4.43-second 40-yard dash at the IPP pro day. It’s uncertain which position he’s going to play, but receiver or running back are his most likely options with his 6’3”, 209-pound frame.

Typically, the IPP program doesn’t develop many offensive skill players. For example, eight IPP players were allocated to NFL teams last season — with feedback from franchises taken into account. Every single one of those players was a lineman, either on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. Out of the 39 IPP players who have signed with NFL teams since the program began, only four of those athletes were transitioned to running backs. In the history of the IPP program, they’ve only developed two receivers — both in the program’s first class in 2016.

The IPP has yet to state which teams will be allocated international players for the upcoming season, but two other names to keep an eye on for the Packers — as these prospects both have a chance of being drafted — are Bayron Matos and Travis Clayton, who are both currently working as offensive linemen.

Matos is a former basketball player from the Dominican Republic who originally enrolled at New Mexico before transferring to South Florida. He also reportedly had a 90-mile-per-hour fastball in baseball but stuck with basketball as his primary sport due to his 6’9” frame. After finishing his college basketball career, he walked on as a defensive lineman for the Bulls, recording a handful of snaps with the team in 2022. He is now focusing on playing offensive line and has a chance to be the first IPP player drafted since Jordan Mailata was taken in the seventh round of the 2018 draft. According to NFL reporter Aaron Wilson, Matos ran a 4.96-second 40-yard dash at 313 pounds and posted a short shuttle of 4.77 seconds and a three-cone of 7.64 seconds.

Clayton also has a chance of being drafted, though, Matos is much more likely to hear his name called in April. Per NFLUk’s post on the tackle prospect, the 301-pounder ran a 4.79-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. The 22-year-old not only has a background in rugby, but the Englishman also trained as a boxer.

Originally posted on ACME Packing Company