It’s something we’ve really only seen twice before, but that doesn’t mean Silas Redd isn’t dreaming of making it big in rugby league circles.
Slightly more recently than Manfred Moore's late-70s experiment, Phillippe Gardent went from NFL Europe to the Crusaders rugby league team in the English lower leagues, but Silas Redd will be hoping for a much bigger impact.
Amid all the clumsy analogies of ‘touchdowns’ and being a ‘reverse Jarryd Hayne,’ former Washington Redskins running back Silas Redd landed at Brisbane international airport this week eager to take the latest steps on a journey he hopes will see him ply his trade in the National Rugby League.
It would be disingenuous to suggest Redd was a star in the NFL but the former USC Trojans stud played 15 games at the highest level of the sport with the Washington Redskins between 2014 and 2016. During his time in one of the biggest sports leagues in the world, Redd managed just 75 rushing yards at an average of 4.7 yards per carry and one rushing touchdown.
From undrafted free agent to Ipswich
Signed by the Redskins as an undrafted free agent, Redd also caught the ball eight times for a total of 107 yards during his career. After a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, Redd was waived by the Redskins in December of 2016 which, for those unaware of the NFL’s lingo basically means he was cut from the roster and told to pack his bags.
Flash-forward to October 2017 and word began circulating that Redd had signed a deal with the Ipswich Jets of the Queensland Cup and was intent on a move down under to challenge himself at a sport with only a passing resemblance to the one he’d played all his life.
The 25-year-old will take part in his first training session with the Jets this week and it’s safe to say there may just be an extra set of eyeballs or two on hands to see the earliest steps in Redd’s transition from NFL everyman to possible future NRL player.
Undoubtedly inspired by the exploits of Jarryd Hayne as the then former Parramatta Eels star made it to the big show with the San Francisco 49ers, Redd doesn’t lack confidence and has backed himself to make an impact at the highest levels of rugby league here in Australia.
"The qualifier is that Jarryd made it to the highest level of the NFL and my goal is to play in the highest level of the NRL, and I am not there yet," Redd told NRL.com after landing in Brisbane.
"I know it is going to be hard work to switch over and play at the highest level, but that is something I am willing to put in the work for.
"I don't think there is any drop-off in athleticism between the NFL and NRL, and Jarryd was fearless. It was just a whole new game to what he knew and he was able to conquer it. I just hope I can put forth that same effort."
On a wing, and a prayer
Slated to play on the wing for the Jets, footage of former Queensland Maroons star Chris Walker, brother of Jets coaches Ben and Shane has been helpful in giving Redd a small taste of what he can expect on the flanks.
While he never really shined in the NFL, however, a solid four years in the college football system, where he played for the University of Southern California (USC) and Penn State have provided plenty of highlight reel tape and convinced the Jets that Redd was worth the investment.
"Without a shadow of a doubt I can't think of a better athlete coming to Australia from another sport to play rugby league in the history of our game," said Jets chairman Steve Johnson as he met his new prized recruit at the airport terminal before adding “it was like hugging a piece of granite.”
From here, the first steps are a trial game in New Zealand this coming weekend. It’s unlikely Redd will see any significant game time, but just being part of the playing group and beginning to pick up the game will do him the world of good.
Given that only one former NFL star has successfully made the transition and played top-flight rugby league in Australia, the odds are stacked against Redd, but should he emulate the Manfred Moore, also a former USC running back who played for the Newtown Jets in 1977 at the expense of the legendary John Singleton, he’ll be a unique character in the game.
Moore only managed four games in the then NSWRL before a head injury saw him return to the US where he would play a further 12 games for the Minnesota Vikings.
40-years later, Redd will be aiming to go further than the trailblazing Moore.