Down goalkeeper Charlie Smyth signs with NFL side New Orleans Saints

The Down goalkeeper agrees to join the Louisiana-based franchise after coming through the NFL’s International Player Pathway scheme

Charlie Smyth smiling at the camera
Charlie Smyth is set to sign with the NFL's New Orleans Saints, who play in the NFC South division. PICTURE: NFL UK

DOWN goalkeeper Charlie Smyth has signed for the NFL side the New Orleans Saints.

The 22-year-old goalkeeper from Mayobridge attended a visit to the Louisiana-based side following a successful pro-day as part of the International Player Pathway (IPP) scheme.

Smyth was seen kicking a 63-yard field goal in the last days of training, just three yards shy of the NFL record.

Smyth is part of the first crop of Irish athletes to come through the IPP, along with Monaghan shot-stopper Rory Beggan, Wicklow’s Mark Jackson and former Connacht rugby player Darragh Leader.

The Irish players came through the Leader Kicking programme, run by Darragh’s brother Tadhg Leader, who is a former professional placekicker in American Football and rugby player.

Smyth, along with Beggan, recently signed with the Pro Star Sports Agency, which represents numerous NFL players, including three-time Super Bowl-winning placekicker Harrison Butker.

The Mayobridge man will join the Saints roster in their international player spot, of which every NFL team has one.

Beggan, Jackson and Darragh Leader are all still awaiting invites to visits for teams, despite all impressing in their pro day and, in Jackson and Beggan’s case, the NFL combine which was held in Indianapolis at the start of March.

Smyth will not be the only Irish-born player in the NFL as the Green Bay Packers punter, Daniel Whelan, was born in Inishkerry, Co Wicklow.

Michael McQuaid, founder of the media company Pro Football Ireland, said that this is a huge moment for the NFL on the island of Ireland.

“While it is important to grow a fanbase here, there is now also a growth in participation. Charlie Smyth and the rest of the 2024 IPP cohort from Leader Kicking are pioneers,” said McQuaid.

“I have no doubt that young GAA and rugby players will look at the news today from Charlie and be motivated to try out for the NFL as a result.

“We are entering an unprecedented period on the island of Ireland for the NFL - one which will be welcomed by all NFL fans.”

The New Orleans Saints currently have a placekicker for Smyth to compete with in Blake Grupe, who has been in the league for two years and scored 81.1 per cent of his kicks in the 2023 season.

Before Grupe, the Saints were in the safe hands, or leg, of Wil Lutz, who was the starting kicker for the side for seven seasons and scored 781 points for the black and gold.

Smyth will join up with his new team on April 15 and then prepare for the organised off-season workouts, called OTAs in the States, which begin on May 21.