Springbok legend Naas Botha has warned Louis Rees-Zammit of the pitfalls and unique challenges of leaving rugby to pursue a career in American football.
In an interview with SportsBoom.com, Botha shared insights into Rees-Zammit’s decision to bring a temporary end to his rugby career to join the NFL international player pathway.
The 22-year-old made the shock announcement on Tuesday, despite having emerged as one of rugby’s brightest young talents, excelling for Gloucester, Wales and the British & Irish Lions.
Botha, who once trialled in American football with the Dallas Cowboys in 1983, highlighted the challenges Rees-Zammit might face in adapting to the distinct nature of the NFL. He praised Rees-Zammit’s rugby skills but stressed the need for a thoughtful transition, particularly in choosing the right position.
Botha drew attention to the stark differences between the sports, especially the unforgiving professionalism of the NFL, where players must be ready from day one.
He commended Rees-Zammit’s ability to outmaneuver defenders but marked the mental shift required to navigate the intense scrutiny and expectations of the NFL.
“He’s got the feet work, he’s got the skill, he’s got the running skills, he’s got lovely hands. He’s got all the attributes to succeed, but this is where we’re making a big mistake trying to compare rugby to American football,” Botha said.
“I arrived at the training camp, and they cut 11 guys on the first day because they’re not 100% ready to start practicing the next day. Somewhere along the line the Americans are [also] going to tell him, ‘you need to put on a couple of pounds’.
“The difference is and see that’s the thing what people sometimes must in rugby you get tackled when you have the ball. OK, so you prepare yourself for a big hit in American football, you get hit without the ball.”
For more, see SportsBoom.com
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