Christian Wade unveils plan to break into the NFL by joining Player Pathway after quitting rugby union

The former England rugby international has turned his back on the sport to pursue a career in the United States

Jack de Menezes@JackdeMenezes
Sunday 28 October 2018 14:45
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Christian Wade has announced that he is joining the Player Pathway programme in a bid to forge a new career in the NFL after turning his back on rugby union.

The 27-year-old announced this week that he has quit Wasps after growing disillusioned with the sport, having won just one England cap in a decade, having been overlooked for selection since his only appearance in 2013.

With former rugby players Alex Gray and Christian Scotland-Williamson already leaving to pursue American football careers through the Player Pathway, Wade has revealed that he too will cross the Atlantic on the scheme that helps promote overseas talent by creating an extra place on their practice roster.

“It’s been a very difficult decision for me, giving up my career in rugby,” Wade told Sky Sports on Sunday at Wembley Stadium, where the Jacksonville Jaguars host the Philadelphia Eagles in the last of this year’s International Series fixtures.

“Wasps have been so incredible to me, they’ve looked after me from the age of 16 all the way up to now and the fans have been great, the RFU have been great as well.

“Like I said, it’s been a very difficult decision for me to leave but I’ve now got the opportunity to go into the Player Pathway program like you’ve seen some of the other guys do. It’s something that I don’t take lightly. I’m going to be starting my training regime literally next week and it’s a huge mountain to climb. There’s so much to learn in such a small space of time but for me I’ve always been someone who’s always given it 100 per cent and my aim is to give it the best I can and hopefully I can try and compete with these guys in the NFL. There’s some phenomenal athletes but I believe in my skills and hopefully I’m good enough.”

Wade’s sudden exit – in which he informed Wasps a week last Tuesday of his decision to quit with immediate effect – caught the game completely by surprise, yet once broken down it is easy to understand why he has decided to gamble on what would be a lucrative move to the NFL.

Players who make a team’s practice squad are guaranteed a minimum of $129,200 [£99,000], but there are no limits set and those who make the 53-man main roster earn much more than that figure, with this season’s minimum wage an eye-watering $480,000 [£367,000] a year.

Christian Wade has quit Wasps to pursue a career in the NFL

With those kind of riches on offer for a season that is significantly shorter than the 11-month plan that the RFU has just unveiled, it’s easy to see a number of future players following Wade across the Pond – or not even getting into rugby union to start with – as the NFL UK’s managing director Alistair Kirkwood believes.

“The news that Christian Wade intends to pursue a career in the NFL is very exciting and we wish him every success in achieving his ambitions,” Kirkwood said.

“We have seen great achievements by British players recently, such as Jay Ajayi winning the Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles and Efe Obada coming through our pathway system to make an impact with the Carolina Panthers. And from outside the UK, Australian former rugby league player Jordan Mailata is with the Eagles at Wembley this weekend only a few months after taking up American football. We hope Christian adds to this story and inspires more people to take up the sport.”

Wade does not feel he has unfinished business in rugby union

At 27, Wade is able to give the NFL a crack and still have time to consider his options if his American dream turns into a nightmare. Many believe it will take him up to three years to get up and running in the NFL if at all, but even though at 30 years old Wade would still have the option to return to rugby, he has pretty much ruled out that prospect already.

Asked about having unfinished business in the 15-man game, Wade said: “I don’t think so. I’ve always given everything I do 100 per cent and my career in rugby has been a really good one.

“I’ve got things I’m really proud of and I worked hard and I feel like I did everything that I possibly could. I don’t have any regrets in rugby really and that’s the best way to leave it. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future but I’ll always love rugby whatever happens.”

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