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Basingstoke to Buffalo Bills: Eighth-tier rugby player Travis Clayton picked in NFL draft

Travis Clayton takes to the stage at the NFL Draft with a Union Flag around his shoulders
Travis Clayton thanked fans in the UK for the support he has had on his journey - AP/Jeff Roberson

An English former rugby union player, Travis Clayton, has been selected by the Buffalo Bills in the 2024 NFL draft having most recently played rugby for his hometown club Basingstoke in the eighth tier.

Clayton, 23, was selected with the 221st overall pick in the seventh round despite having never played a game in the sport.

The 6ft 7in athlete was selected from the NFL’s international player pathway programme as an offensive lineman. Clayton recorded his 40-yard dash in 4.79 seconds during the draft combine, which the Bills said was faster than all the other offensive lineman have recorded over the past 10 years.

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

“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. 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 social media post, Clayton also thanked fans in the UK for the support he has had on his journey.

Travis Clayton walks on stage after being picked by the Buffalo Bills
Clayton walks on stage after being picked by the Buffalo Bills - AP/Jeff Roberson

He added: “Just want to shout out all the UK fans for sticking by me and supporting me and look, I’ve made it to the NFL and now it’s time to represent and show the rest of the world exactly why UK athletes should play in the NFL.”

Clayton has a background in a number of sports. He played football for Fulham’s academy while also having trials at Reading, Southampton and Chelsea. Clayton also tried his hand at rowing and boxing before rugby.

His selection sees him join Louis Rees-Zammit in American football after the Welshman signed for Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs in March.

Rees-Zammit, who announced his decision to leave rugby union in January, impressed the Chiefs during his time on the NFL’s international player pathway, with running back and wide receiver his designated positions.

The former Gloucester, Wales and British and Irish Lions wing stunned the world of rugby in January by quitting the sport in an attempt to secure a contract with an NFL team in 2024.

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