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2024 NFL Draft: England's Travis Clayton selected by Buffalo Bills in seventh round

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England's Travis Clayton became the newest milestone to the NFL's international growth on Saturday as he was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the seventh round of the 2024 NFL Draft. 

The former rugby player was taken with the 221st overall pick on the final day of the Draft having spent 10 weeks as part of the league's International Player Pathway programme, within which he trained alongside former Welsh rugby star - now of the Kansas City Chiefs - Louis Rees-Zammit.

Clayton, who also a background in boxing, had previously been among the first group of players to join the UK's NFL Academy upon its launch in 2019 and has since played rugby for Basingstoke in Counties 4B Hampshire.

"It was all a bit of a blur, but luckily I managed to get on stage in time, dragged left, right and center," said Clayton. "I hope I did it right on stage."

Standing at 6'7" and 301lbs, he notably recorded a time of 4.81 seconds in the 40-yard dash during his Pro Day, which would have marked the fastest among offensive linemen at this year's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Such was his impression that Clayton, who is yet to play in a real football game, held visits with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Kansas City Chiefs, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns in the build-up to the Draft.

"I didn't have visits with the Bills, but look, it's the NFL, man. Buffalo came to me. Buffalo wanted me. I'm just ready to work," he said. "I don't think it's really going to kick in yet until I actually get to Buffalo. But at the moment, it's a world of emotions going on right now. It's crazy."

In a new change to roster setups, NFL teams are now granted an extra 17th spot on their practice squad that can be filled by an international player. A practice squad player can be elevated to the active roster three times during a season.

"I always had the dream of playing in the NFL. So hearing to get my name called out, that's the main goal. That's exactly what I wanted," Clayton said. "There is a lot of steps still to be done, but the first step is a big one I've done. It's a blessing."

Clayton previously cited Philadelphia Eagles left tackle Jordan Mailata as his footballing inspiration, with the Australian rugby-convert having just signed a $66m contract extension having come through the IPP programme to become a seventh-round Draft pick back in 2018.

"I love the physical side of things. Being on the offensive line, being able to take your anger out on people legally, it's great," added Clayton. "I can just use my strength to my abilities."

Clayton's potential had seemingly caught the eye of Bills offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, who studied the former rugby player before passing on his thoughts to general manager Brandon Beane.

"He was like, 'Man, this guy's athletic. Obviously, raw,'" Beane said. "You know, I've never seen him really, truly play football. But I know he was a rugby player, boxing and by all accounts a great young man. And his measurables are wowing off the page."

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