Rugby has produced several athletes who have progressed to the summit of their sport.
All of these players played rugby as a schoolboy, senior, or professional to help hone their skills. The most successful of those athletes are listed here in no particular order.
Jarryd Hayne – NFL Player
Between Christian Wade and Jarryd Hayne, it was a toss-up. Wade showed a lot of promise in preseason games for the NFL, but he was never able to crack the active roster. Hayne, on the other hand, did, and that was the deciding factor. Many rugby players are now attempting to make the transition to the NFL. Valentine Holmes (NRL, Cowboys) and Daniel Adongo (Kenyan 7’s) are two additional recent examples.
None of the preceding, however, had the same impact as Hayne. He is the only full-time professional rugby player to successfully transition to the NFL and play in regular season games as an offensive player (that is not a placekicker or punter). Hayne’s primary roles were running back and kick returner. He struggled with the sport’s complexities and complexities. Despite this, in his NFL career, the 8-game San Francisco 49er had 52 rushing yards and 72 return yards.
Jordan Mailata – NFL Player
The 6’8 offensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles began his career as a rugby league prop. Before being scouted by the NFL, Mailata was a youth player for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. In the NFL, it took Mailata a few seasons to hone his trade due to the mechanics of the game.
Aaron Ramsey – Football player
Aaron Ramsey was a keen rugby player before playing professional football in leagues like Serie A and the Premier League. Ramsey developed a keen interest in the sport while growing up in Wales, where he played Rugby Union and Rugby League. He was also a fantastic performer. Scouts from the St Helens Rugby League approached me as a schoolboy. In Rugby Union, he was also requested to try out for the Newport Gwent Dragons. Ramsey primarily played fly-half or wing, and in a 2013 interview, he stated that he loved playing fly-half and being in the heart of things.
Unfortunately for Rugby, Ramsey had to choose between the two games while he was in his teens. He ultimately chose football, and his illustrious career began there.
Alexander Volkanovski – UFC Champion
The 5’6′′ Australian never had the enormous frame of some of the other men on this list. Instead, Volkanovski made up for his lack of bulk with grit and ferocity. Two qualities that he gained in rugby have served him well throughout his fighting career. Despite his tiny stature, Volkanovski played prop for his Rugby League club. He was an excellent prop player, frequently winning man of the match accolades. Considering the size disparity he was undoubtedly subjected to, this is incredible.
Steven Adams – NBA Player
In his early rugby days, the hulking 6’11” NBA warrior began as a lock. Adams played junior rugby in Rotorua, New Zealand, where he grew up. He was, without a doubt, a huge youngster, which is understandable given his current stature. Adams, however, realized he would not be an All Black when he was 13 years old and switched to basketball. As they say, the rest is history.
Adams is now regarded as one of the world’s best big men. In the 2013 NBA draft, he was the 12th overall pick. He has played for a number of NBA clubs, including the Oklahoma City Thunder, the New Orleans Pelicans, and the Memphis Grizzlies.