Rugby star-turned-RB gets first reps with Chiefs

Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Louis Rees-Zammit caught a screen pass during the Kansas City Chiefs‘ three-day rookie camp that concluded Monday and was able to break away from defenders. For an instant, Rees-Zammit thought he was back on the rugby pitch.

“When there’s open field, I feel like I’m playing rugby again,” Rees-Zammit said. “I can use my awareness when I am in space. Then that’s when I can cause the most damage.”

Rees-Zammit, 23 and an international rugby star, practiced for the first time since signing with the Chiefs in March. He was also one of a group of Chiefs players recently working out with Patrick Mahomes in Texas.

He is getting his start in American football as a running back. The Chiefs also plan to look at him as a kickoff returner.

“Pretty good week,” he said of the three-day camp. “It was great to meet all the boys, great to dive deep into the playbook. … It definitely helped doing rookie minicamp, getting reps. The way I learn is actually doing the reps, so it was a great three days.

“[American football] is completely different. Rugby is very free-flowing unless you get a set piece. That’s when you call a play. So there’s probably 20 to 30 plays a game, whereas here you’re talking hundreds. So it’s been interesting to learn a playbook.”

Rees-Zammit is in the process of making a few on-field adjustments. He tends to run more upright and carry the ball higher than is typical for a running back.

“This was good for him,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “This gave him an opportunity to really jump in and learn and he’s so diligent with everything and wants to be so good at everything and I’ve appreciated that. You could see the progress he’s made. You saw yesterday with the long run he had on the screen.

“He’s done a good job of working on holding the ball. They do hold it a little bit differently and it’s not quite as pointy as a football, so he’s done a good job with that and he’ll learn the pad level the first time he gets hit.”

Rees-Zammit said he has been a fan of American football since he was little. He attended a couple of NFL games in London over the years. In between, he would watch as much of the game as possible, saying former wide receiver DeSean Jackson was his favorite player.

He thought this was the best time to give the NFL a try because he has accomplished everything he set out to do as a rugby player.

“I’ve been put in the running back group to start with [but] I think it’s going to be a versatile role for me,” Rees-Zammit said. “I’m hoping the coaches are very creative here. … It’s all about me learning the playbook and learning the game because without that I can’t do anything else. I’m fully focused on, ‘I’ve got to make the team. How am I going to do that?’ I’ve got to perform on the field, I’ve got to live in the playbook and then we’ll go from there.”

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