Even though the Houston Texans star defensive end, J.J. Watt, understands little about rugby, he can give you an account of Ben Landry regarding his career excellence. He refers to his former high school teammate as a person with physical force. Watt disappointed many people who doubted his ability to become one of the biggest players in the NFL. The NFL fraternity barely knew him when he was a tight end at Central Michigan before clinching many honors in the league. In his first five seasons as a pro, Watt won three awards for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and in the 2011 draft, he became the 11th overall pick. As NFL expert picks focus on Landry and his break from Rugby to join the NFL, he remains one of the best rugby stars in the U.S.
Watt praises Ben as a mentally stable hard worker and mentions that he has known him since they used to lift weights in the basement of their home and played many sports with him. Even though he was two years behind Laundry at Pewaukee (Wisconsin) High School, Watt has always tracked Ben’s rugby career and wishes him the best. Excelling a career in the NFL without playing any college football requires deep focus, hope, and belief. Ben is 6’5” in height, weighs 270 pounds, and completes a 40-yard run in 4.68-seconds. He played similar positions as Watt, tight end, and defensive end and he has an aggressive attitude as well.
Currently, all the 32 NFL teams are in their respective training camps as Laundry awaits a call to join one of them. His first invite came in May after which he took part in a tryout from the Seattle Seahawks rookie camp. He has also visited the Detroit Lions, the Chicago Bears, and the Green Bay Packers. Ted Thompson, the GM of the Packers, supported Laundry by expressing that any player who still has the time, the intelligence and athletic ability can succeed in the NFL. Since Laundry took an indirect route to succeed in Rugby, he believes that the tryouts will help him adjust to football because he did similar programs in the last six years.
A Domestic Game
During his 20-year career, Justin Fitzpatrick has encountered and known about several gifted rugby players both as an elite player and as a coach in Europe. He perceives Landry as a future star with the potential, especially with his physique and athletic strength. Justin also said that Laundry seems very coachable. He vehemently supports Laundry’s quest for football, unlike many coaches who would never want to lose such a player to other sports.
Landry began playing rugby in 7th grade with his father and uncle, and he naturally understood the game. He also played other traditional American sports, such as basketball. However, he settled on rugby after his size betrayed him from playing in major college football. His love for football remained alive even as he traveled globally in the name of playing Rugby. He used to work out at a nearby athletic performance center known as NX Level near Milwaukee where some NFL players, including Watt visited too.
According to the owner of the center, Brad Arnett, Landry’s testing numbers and speed constantly improved. Landry sought advice from Arnett about shifting his career to the NFL. Arnett quickly responded with so much positivity, saying that would be a very realistic and legitimate shot for him.
Almost immediately, Landry contacted Ron Slavin of BTI Sports and signed with him as his agent. First, Slavin sent a video displaying Landry’s rugby highlights to Peter Carroll, Seahawks head coach because he admired rugby-style tackling. He got an invite to their rookie camp, and even though the Seahawks did not sign him, other teams began to be interested. On June 15, Landry suffered a hamstring injury in Green Bay after visiting the Bears, Lions and Packers within a short period happened.
A Slim Chance
All through his scouting career, John Dorsey, the GM of Kansas City Chiefs has been known for signing unexpected players. Last year, the Chiefs included an ex-UW-Milwaukee basketball player, tight end Demetrius Harris, on their 53-man roster, along with Ross Travis, the ex-Penn State basketball player on their practice team. Earlier this year, Harris signed a three-year, $6.3m deal with the Chiefs to extend his contract, while Travis is one of the favorites to clinch the No. 3 tight end job.
Therefore, in the case of Landry lands a contract in the NFL, he will be among other rugby players to achieve the same. In 2012, Hayden Smith returned to rugby after staying on the roster of the New York Jets for five games. Last season, Jarryd Hayne abandoned his Australian-based rugby career to join the NFL through San Francisco 49ers. He later retired from the NFL in May to enable him to play for the Olympic sevens team of Fiji.
Maybe Landry should find a way of playing both Rugby and football just like Nate Ebner, the New England Patriots safety, who is currently on leave from the NFL to feature on the U.S. Olympic roster. Ebner features among the dozen players on The U.S. Sevens team, after playing for the Patriots in 66 careers NFL games in the last four seasons.
Meanwhile, Landry remains optimistic to kick-start his NFL career by training hard while helping his father in his company, Area Rental, to set up a church festival or developing their website. He is determined that eventually, he will have the chance to fulfill his dream of playing for a football team in the NFL by preparing for such an opportunity through vigorous training.