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Charlie Smyth: GAA goalkeeper ready to show he can be NFL starting kicker for New Orleans Saints

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Not many people can say have given up playing Gaelic football and working as a primary school teacher to join the NFL, but that is the story of Charlie Smyth.

Down goalkeeper Smyth has signed a three-year deal with the New Orleans Saints as a kicker as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, the 22-year-old becoming the first Irishman to gain his spot through the IPP.

Having played Gaelic football all his life and being an NFL fan over the last eight years, Smyth sent an email to the NFL back he was 18 to try and show off his skill set.

He now has his chance with the Saints and believes he can show he is a worthy starting kicker.

“I suppose it feels a bit surreal. Coming from the position that I have where you are playing Gaelic football back home,” he told Sky Sports News.

“Also coming from the position as a fan, I have been a huge fan of the NFL the past seven or eight years. To have the chance to kick in the Superdome in front of 73,000 people, I am absolutely buzzing and cannot wait to get started.

“I just thought I could skip it all and go straight to the NFL back when I was 18. It really has come full circle.

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Smyth played inter-county GAA for Down and won an Ulster U20 Championship in 2021

“I think I always saw the ability I had in my free-kicks in Gaelic football and thought I could transfer my skills over to American football.

“Over this past six or seven months I think I have proven I can do that and now it is just about going into training camp and showing to all the coaches I have the ability to be a starting kicker for the Saints.

“I know it is not going to be easy because they already have a very good kicker but I feel like I have the ability to turn heads in training camp and I can’t wait to show what I can do.”

Before the IPP was the goal, Smyth had trained as a primary school teacher with Irish language and was ready to continue to doing that while also playing GAA with his club Mayobridge.

“I just finished my degree last year to be a primary school teacher with Irish language,” he said.

“To be the position I am in now from last year; I thought I would be teaching then playing Gaelic football in the evenings.

“Now, a year on, I could potentially never have to go in the classroom again after only finishing my degree, a retired teacher already essentially.

“It is a bit of a mad one but that is the reality right now. I am just focused on going in and making new friends with some of my team-mates and I can have a bit of Irish to teach them.

“For me, it has just been so special because I have just been such a fan of the sport.”

Fellow GAA stars Rory Beggan and Mark Jackson also impressed at the NFL Combine but have yet to receive contract offers. They have since returned to training with their respective counties and could feature in the opening round of the provincial championships this weekend.

Beggan’s Monaghan face Cavan in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship on Sunday, with Jackson’s Wicklow taking on Westmeath in their Leinster Championship opener on the same day.

Smyth: Rees-Zammit has the work ethic to make the NFL dream happen

Smyth is a graduate of the IPP alongside Louis Rees-Zammit, who joins the Kansas City Chiefs, impressing scouts after running a 4.43 second 40-yard dash.

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NFL journalist Jordan Schultz explains why reigning Super Bowl Champions Kansas City Chiefs are linked with signing former rugby union star Louis Rees-Zammit

After spending seven weeks training alongside the rugby star, Smyth believes the Welshman has everything it takes to be a success in the NFL.

“Louis is an unbelievable athlete. Everybody knows the speed he has,” Smyth said.

“Having trained with him for seven weeks, I know the attitude he has and how much he wants to make this work as well.

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Seattle Seahawks defensive co-ordinator Aden Durde discusses whether or not he believes Rees-Zammit will have a chance of making it in the NFL

“The two of us are probably in a similar situation where we could have seen ourselves transferring our skills over from rugby or Gaelic football to the NFL.

“So, it just shows that we have seen ourselves playing in the league. Then obviously going to Kansas City who have been the Super Bowl champions the past two years, I wish the best for him.

“I know he is going to be great because he has a great work ethic and a great attitude to make this happen just like I do.”

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