Rory Beggan, Charlie Smyth and Co shine on pro day to further their NFL dreams

Monaghan’s Rory Beggan didn’t miss a kick in Florida, while Down’s Charlie Smyth also hit from 60 yards out

A composite image of Rory Beggan, Mark Jackson, Charlie Smyth and Darragh Leader at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis
(L-R) Rory Beggan, Mark Jackson, Charlie Smyth and Darragh Leader at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. PICTURE: NFL UK

UNDER the watchful eyes of NFL coaches and scouts, the island’s best exports showcased their prowess for the final time in the bid to win the approval, and capital, of one of the NFL’s top teams.

In the University of South Florida’s training facility, the Irish athletes selected as part of the International Player Pathway (IPP) were put through their paces, completing a full specialist workout in full view of NFL scouts.

The other International Player Pathway participants, including former Welsh rugby starlet Louis Rees-Zammit, also took part in this pro day.

The workout started with strength and conditioning drills such as the bench press, in which former Connacht and Ireland rugby player Darragh Leader excelled, coming within two reps of 225lbs (102.5kg) of the record for a punter.

The record for a punter was set by Michael Turk an unsigned free agent who recorded 25 reps of 225 pounds at the combine in 2023.

Other basic tests, including the 40-yard dash, took place, with the highlight of the day coming from Welsh rugby star Louis Rees-Zammit who ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, the overall record for the 40 is 4.21, set by Xavier Worthy at this year’s NFL combine.

The drills then moved onto specifics, which is where the Irish players could show coaches why they are the best international kicking talent pool.

Monaghan’s Rory Beggan was perfect on the day, sticking all 10 of his kicks through the uprights, including one from 60 yards, a feat even for a seasoned pro.

From the footage, Beggan hasn’t forgotten his roots, with his signature low swing across the ball and straight posture making the 60-yard effort look almost effortless as is drifted and glided to the right and between the uprights.

VIDEO: Rory Beggan at the NFL Combine (NFL UK)

Beggan looked to be as close to the finished article as any and will hope to fulfil his dream of becoming “one of the 32 best kickers in the world”.

Young Down shot-stopper Charlie Smyth converted eight of his 10 efforts, including one from 60 yards and at 22, Smyth has the highest ceiling out of the five kickers that are taking part in the combine.

Mark Jackson, the goalkeeper for Oisin McConville’s Wicklow, faired almost equally as well, scoring seven of his 10 kicks and also impressing on the punting drills, in which he took part along with Darragh Leader, whose brother Tadhg Leader coached the Irish quartet and English rugby player Harry Mallinder, the other specialist in this year’s crop.

Jackson struck four punts over 50 yards, which seriously impressed NFL coaches according to sources on the ground, with Leader also turning heads.

The NFL teams will now go away and discuss their options before offering practice squad spots to players, with all 16 IPP players almost guaranteed a spot, as they will be eligible to fill a 17th practice squad roster spot across any of the 32 teams, which can only be filled by players born outside of the US and Canada.

Ireland represents 25% per cent of the 2024 IPP class, equal to Nigeria in the number of representatives in the group.