Ex-rugby league star chasing NFL dream in bid to join "world’s best athletes"

Jacob Smillie wants to swap the rugby league fields of northern England for the bright lights of the NFL.

The former Swinton, Bradford and Halifax winger is hoping that his performances at the NFL International Combine in October will earn him a shot on gridiron’s biggest stage.

Smillie was among 43 athletes from 13 countries invited to the trials at Tottenham Hotspur ­Stadium after impressing on social-media videos.

Previously, a length-of-the-field try he scored for Halifax Reserves at Keighley went viral after earning praise from dual code legend Martin Offiah, and he has represented Jamaica at rugby union.

The 23-year-old recorded the fourth-fastest 40-yard dash at the Combine with a time of 4.66sec and wants to be the ­latest RL convert to try his luck in the NFL after the likes of ­Jarryd Hayne, Valentine Holmes and current Philadelphia ­Eagles star Jordan Mailata.


Former union players ­Christian Wade and Christian Scotland-Williamson are also chasing their American football dreams Stateside.

Smillie said: “In my opinion the best athletes in the world are in the NFL.

“There are a lot of transferable skills from rugby, but the biggest difference in American football is that you have to prove your athletic ability to coaches through things like the 40-yard dash and vertical jumps.

“I’d never played American football but I started watching it a few years back with my mum’s partner, and one of my best friends is an Eagles fan who also got me into it.

“I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of players training and they showed me how to train and how disciplined they are.

“But it’s not just about being fast – you need a lot of different pieces to the jigsaw. I think I could play special teams as a kick returner as well as a running back.”

Smillie, who often trains on his own to improve his stats, is hoping that his story inspires other youngsters after
revealing he was hardly the most athletic kid at school.

He added: “I was in the second set for PE at high school.

“But that motivated me to train harder because I wanted to be in the first set, and when I finished school I started pursuing sport more seriously, disciplining myself to improve.

“Now I’m focusing on this journey 100 percent and pursuing this chance, and I just want to see where it will take me.”

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