We can never resist a code-hopping story, so when we learned that Christian Wade was quitting UK rugby side Wasps to enter into the NFL’s Pathway program, we were on that news faster than an uninvited wedding guest at an open bar.
He is taking a route that has obvious appeal. If he can earn an active roster spot with one of the NFL’s 32 clubs, the financial windfall will be exceedingly lucrative.
Wade’s age may work against him. He is 27 and as a former England winger, it would be expected that he would be after an NFL job as a ball carrier out of the backfield. The average career life expectancy for that position is around three years. Wade may be done before he gets started.
Speaking with reporters at Wembley Stadium as the NFL prepared to stage a traveling show with a game between last year’s Champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars, Wade said, “It’s been a very difficult decision for me, giving up my career in rugby.”
He was a member of Wasps since the age of 16, however, and it seems an ideal time to think about a career after rugby and professional gridiron seems less risky than the professional boxing route followed by Anthony Mundine.
Jarryd Hayne quit the Parramatta Eels of the NRL for a go at a spot with the San Francisco 49ers, but he abandoned his quest when he became patently obvious that his prospects were not exactly promising.
Wade faces a similar obstacle as did Hayne.
While some of the basic athletic skills between rugby and gridiron are identical, experience is a key factor.
NFL teams carry a 53-man active roster. Throw out the kicking positions and that number declines to 51. Many AFL teams carry three quarterbacks, reducing the number further to 48.
Many NFL teams have four ball carriers, so that equates to 128 jobs, while there are thousands of players with vast gridiron acumen lining up for even the whisper of an opening.