Canadian Rugby Star Adam Zaruba Chasing The NFL Dream
Adam Zaruba and the Impossible Catch
“Is this the greatest piece of skill ever seen on the rugby field?” Wales Online inquired. “One of the most remarkable catches in sevens history,” Fox Sports Australia admired. This level of hyperbole tends to be reserved for the finest moments in rugby, one of which took place when Canada faced Wales in the semi-finals of the Paris 7s tourney in May 2016.
Chasing a short kick on the left side of the pitch, Adam leaped over an outstretched Welshman while in full sprint, palming the ball and landing without breaking stride.
He jogged the rest of the way for the most spectacular try of the tournament. Millions of sports fans marveled at the play, helping to draw the attention of NFL scouts attempting to source unique athletic talent from international rugby and football leagues.
NFL Seeks International Rugby Talent
American football has welcomed talent from the international rugby and football community for well over a century. One of the first famous examples was Australian Pat O’Dea.
Pat started as a fullback for the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1898, after playing Australian Rules Football for the Melbourne Football club. Known as the best kicker of his era, he also spent a few years coaching at the University of Norte Dame and the University of Missouri, earning a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1962.
Over the past few years, NFL franchises have ramped up their international scouting efforts, attempting to discover players with unique talents which translate well to American football. In 2015, Jarryd Hayne became the first rugby league player to sign an NFL contract, serving as a returner and running back for the San Francisco 49ers. He didn’t last long, retiring after the 49ers switched coaches the next season. Adam looks primed to outlast Jarryd in the NFL.
Adam Zaruba Reminiscent of Gronk
The player that Adam Zaruba resembles the most would be New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. Zaruba stands 6-foot-5, weighing 265, only an inch shorter than the Gronk. However, Adam’s speed could be the game-breaker that leads to a fruitful NFL career. On Instagram, the big Canadian posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.49 seconds, which would have been second-best among all tight ends in the 2017 draft combine.
Unlike many rugby and Aussie rules players making the switch, Adam does have experience playing organized football at a younger age. He was a star with Carson Graham High School in North Vancouver, and was recruited to play at Simon Fraser University. Instead, he ended up scouted by Rugby Canada, making the national squad on a full-time basis.
Adam expected to rest after the latest international sevens tournament, when he was contacted by a South African agent interested in the Canadian’s NFL potential. Before heading to Philadelphia, he worked with the University of British Columbia. Coaches Joe McCullum and Blake Hill, along with UBC QB Mike O’Connor, helped whip him closer to game shape. The result was a three-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
A Unique Opportunity For Adam Zaruba
He didn’t hesitate long before accepting the chance to compete for a position in the NFL. More importantly, Adam appears to appreciate the unique opportunity afforded by his rare talents.
“I’ve been blown away about how many people have put their hand up,” Adam said. “Nobody asked for anything, they were just excited to help out.”
Instead of resting after a tough rugby tournament, Zaruba’s been putting in hard time at the gym, recruiting Derek Hansen, an ex-SFU alumni who used to serve as the strength and conditioning coach. They spent a lot of time focusing on his 40-yard dash, which will greatly improve Adam’s odds in the NFL. And as the one-handed, highlight reel rugby catch demonstrates, Zaruba has the type of soft hands that can’t be taught.
“Physically, I’m a bit of an anomaly,” Zaruba said, understating his outstanding genetics. Considering his size, speed, athleticism and deft hands, Adam might soon hear “Zoobs!” yelled by admiring fans at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.
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