What’s next for Irishmen chasing a career in the NFL?

Four Irish athletes shone brightly at the NFL’s first International Player Pathway Pro Day and eye the next step in their American dream

Charlie Smyth holding a water bottle at the NFL Combine and Rory Beggan smiling into the camera at the NFL combine
Charlie Smyth (left) and Rory Beggan have signed with the Pro Star Sports agency ahead of the upcoming season. PICTURE: NFL UK

Ireland’s entry into the NFL has been a roaring success with three athletes signing with a pro agency and each athlete showing off their impressive skills on Pro Day.

Rory Beggan made headlines with his flawless performance in place-kicking scoring a perfect 10 in as many attempts.

The Monaghan keeper is the first international player to achieve a perfect score.

Down’s Charlie Smyth (22) showed off his impressive talent at distance scoring eight out of 10, including the final kick of 60 yards.

Wicklow goalkeeper Mark Jackson displayed a strong performance at place-kicking. The 25-year-old scored seven out of 10.

Former rugby player Darragh Leader shined brightest in the bench press, nearly breaking the Combine record for a punter of 25 reps set by Michael Turk.

Leader missed the NFL Combine due to injury but made an incredible recovery through his weightlifting.

What is next for the four Irishmen?

This year’s International Player Pathway is the first in its history providing a new source of talent for NFL teams to find their next superstar.

Scouts are closely watching the athletes on Pro Day. Despite the wide range of coverage and attention, it is still tough for each competitor to secure a pro-contract which is why their performances are vital to their success.

Three of them have already made big strides by securing a contract with agency ProStar Sports. The agency also represents three-time Super Bowl winner Harrison Butker, kicker for the Super Bowl champions Kansas City Chiefs.

It is important to note that while Beggan, Smyth and Leader have secured an agent, it is their results that matter most when it comes to securing a pro-contract.

Beggan will be full of optimism after his perfect display of kicking. For a kicker it is vital to be consistent from the field, which is why the 31-year-old will be in the eyes of many scouts.

Life-long Green Bay Packers fan Charlie Smyth will be hoping to have impressed from the field. His display, while not perfect, was amongst the best and at 22 he has the time for improvement.

Mayobridge man Smyth showed optimism when speaking to reporter Conor Mangan, saying “Overall, I’m generally quite happy.”



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Mark Jackson will hope to have impressed in his display at kicking, with a solid seven of 10 kicks made.

Time will tell whether his performances have made a desired impact. One big factor in favour of Jackson is his history in the GAA.

The goalkeeper has astonished in his time with Wicklow, surpassing 100 points as a keeper putting himself amongst an elite group at the age of 25.

Darragh Leader had his misfortunes going into Pro Day after missing the Combine through injury.

From Galway, Leader had a strong rugby union career with Connacht including appearances in the Heineken Cup and Ireland’s U20 side.

Doubts around his NFL future circulated from his injury the Irishman managed to overcome his disadvantage by nearly breaking the Combine record for most reps in weightlifting.

The record for a punter, set by Michael Turk, recorded 25 reps of 225 pounds. Leader managed a staggering 23 reps, impressing many watching scouts.

Ireland’s future in the NFL is promising with the American dream turning greener by the day.