New Buffalo Bills star Travis Clayton is ready to BREAK America (2024)

  • Travis Clayton was the 221st overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft on Saturday
  • The ex-rugby player has tried his hand at a variety of sports already in his career
  • He will join Louis Rees-Zammit in looking to try and force his way into the NFL

By Peter Carline

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Louis Rees-Zammit is not the only former rugby union winger hoping to break into the NFL this season.

Travis Clayton, who has never played a competitive game of American football, was picked by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the NFL draft as an offensive lineman.

Man mountain Clayton — who last played rugby for eighth-tier Basingstoke RFC of the Counties 2 Hampshire Division in March last year — joined the NFL Academy in 2019 and enrolled in the international player pathway programme in January alongside Welsh speedster Rees-Zammit.

The pair joined 14 other NFL hopefuls and headed to Florida in January for an intensive 10-week training camp. And while Rees-Zammit signed a three-year deal with the Kansas City Chiefs in March, 23-year-old Clayton impressed scouts from a number of teams during workouts.

Weighing in at 21st 9lb, 6ft 7in Clayton is in good shape for a big man. He recently ran the 40 metre dash in 4.79 seconds — the fastest time recorded by Bills scouts for an offensive lineman in the last decade.

Travis Clayton stands at 6ft 7ins and can run the 40m dash in just 4.79 seconds - the fastest Buffalo Bills' scouts have seen in a decade for an offensive lineman

Louis Rees-Zammit is not going to be the only former rugby star trying to break into the NFL this season

‘I love the physical side of things. Being on the offensive line, being able to take your anger out on people legally, it’s great,’ Clayton said. ‘I can just use my strength to my abilities.’

Clayton was in downtown Detroit — where a record 775,000 fans attended the three-day event — to hear his name called out as the 221st overall pick on Saturday.

‘It’s like a carnival out here,’ a joyous Clayton said on Zoom in a Bills cap. ‘It was all a bit of a blur, but luckily I managed to get on stage in time, dragged left, right and centre. I hope I did it right on stage.’

As well as rugby union, Clayton tried his hand at athletics, football, boxing, rowing and tennis and he will shortly join his new team-mates for organised team activities, building up to training camp in August.

‘I didn’t have visits with the Bills, but look, it’s the NFL, man. Buffalo came to me. Buffalo wanted me. I’m just ready to work,’ Clayton said. ‘I don’t think it’s really going to kick in yet until I actually get to Buffalo. But at the moment, it’s a world of emotions going on right now. It’s crazy.’

After watching his workouts, the Bills gambled on his athletic potential. Bills offensive line coach Aaron Kromer was impressed by Clayton’s tape, sending it to general manager Brandon Beane.

‘He was like, “Man, this guy’s athletic. Obviously raw”,’ Beane said. ‘You know, I’ve never seen him really, truly play football,’ added Beane. ‘But I know he was a rugby player, boxing and by all accounts a great young man. And his measurables are wowing off the page.’

The international player pathway was launched in 2017 with the intention of introducing international athletes from all backgrounds into the NFL.

As well as rugby union, Clayton tried his hand at athletics, football, boxing, rowing and tennis in his journey to the NFL

775,000 fans attended the three-day event to hear Clayton's name called out as the 221st overall pick

Five graduates have made active NFL rosters — among them British Nigerian Efe Obada of the Washington Commanders, who is beginning his seventh NFL season and Jordan Mailata, an Australian former rugby league player who is an offensive tackle with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now Clayton will get the chance to add himself to that list. ‘I always had the dream of playing in the NFL,’ he added. ‘So hearing my name called out, that’s exactly what I wanted. There is a lot of steps still to be done, but the first step is a big one. It’s a blessing.’

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New Buffalo Bills star Travis Clayton is ready to BREAK America (2024)
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