HomeFootballWicklow goalkeeper Mark Jackson invited to train with Pittsburgh Steelers

Wicklow goalkeeper Mark Jackson invited to train with Pittsburgh Steelers


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Jackson was seen as a potential NFL kicker after entering the league’s International Player Pathway, where he and fellow gaelic football goalkeepers Rory Beggan and Charlie Smyth, along with former Connacht rugby player Darragh Leader, interviewed with and kicked in front of NFL team scouts during pro days and the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Derry man Smyth came away from that trip with a contract to be on the extended squad for the New Orleans Saints, and now Jackson will have an opportunity to prove worthy of a similar deal.

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It is not clear in what capacity Jackson will be at the camp. The team already have kickers Chris Boswell and Matthew Wright on the squad, though neither are rookies and the team do need a rookie kicker to be able to train this weekend.

Jackson, 25, has been videoed hitting 70-yard kicks, and hit a field goal from 55 yards out when a Steelers scout watched him perform at a pro day in Florida. At the combine he was the best performer when hitting kick-outs, with one shot from the tee going 76 yards in Indianapolis. However, it is unsure how he may perform as the NFL have changed their kick-off rules for this season – it is likely he will perform drills related to this new style with the rookie minicamp as part of the squad’s overall preparations for the new rules.

Earlier in the offseason Jackson signed Rob Roche as his agent, who also has the Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker as a client – the highest-paid kicker in the league widely regarded as one of the best.

From this season, every NFL team must have one international player on their practice squad, essentially a reserve team. The Steelers invited Englishman Travis Clayton, a former rugby player and boxer who is part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, for a workout last month, but Clayton was snapped up by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the Draft.

Jackson had been back in training with Oisín McConville’s squad in recent weeks but his participation for the summer championship is not certain.

The Steelers have had a growing connection with Ireland in recent years, most recently showing it by having Kerry footballer Paudie Clifford announce one of the team’s Draft picks filmed live from Killarney. The team’s connection with the GAA in particular is strong, with a watch party being held in Croke Park last year. The team have openly stated that they would like to play an NFL game in Ireland, something they did in Croke Park for a 1997 pre-season clash with the Chicago Bears.

Some believe a 2027 timeline for a game in Dublin is possible should the NFL, Steelers and the GAA pursue holding a fixture in Ireland. The University of Pittsburgh, who play in the same stadium as the Steelers, will play in that year’s Aer Lingus College Football Classic in the Aviva Stadium, and odd-numbered years are when teams in the Steelers’ conference have an ‘extra’ home fixture in their 17-game season, increasing the likelihood for international games.

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