Sevens flyer lured to Gridiron
Sevens flyer lured to GridironSHARE
Carlin Isles, a 24-year-old United States Sevens wing touted as the fastest man in Rugby Union, has signed a practice squad receiver contract with the NFL's Detroit Lions.
The Lions, eliminated from American football play-off contention last Sunday, have been known for unusual moves in trying to land talent, bringing in a German player last year and Norwegian kicker Havard Rugland earlier this year after seeing him on a YouTube video.
Isles, dubbed the fastest man in Rugby Union by a magazine last year, underwent a tryout session for the Lions on Monday that included running the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds.
A spot opened for Isles after the Lions promoted tight end Matt Veldman from the practice squad to the active roster to replace injured Brandon Pettigrew ahead of Detroit's season-ending game Sunday at Minnesota.
"You're looking for athletes," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.
"It hasn't been unusual to see basketball players transition to the NFL. That's not just recently, that goes way back.
"Even track guys like Bob Hayes and Renaldo Nehemiah. An athlete's an athlete. There are skills that you can develop, and if you see something you like then you can work with him."
Isles, whose Ohio hometown of Massillon is a famed US high school gridiron hotbed and near the American Football Hall of Fame, was a sprint star and American football player in college before switching to Rugby Union.
He plays for the Gentlemen of Aspen club team and has 11 caps for the US Sevens squad.
"I'm very happy," Isles said.
"Being in an NFL locker room has been a true blessing for me. It's outstanding and a shocker for me. I would have never thought in my life I would be right here in the NFL."
Other NFL clubs have turned outside the usual US collegiate feeder system for talent this year.
Kenyan-born Daniel Adongo has played two games at linebacker this season for the play-off-bound Indianapolis Colts after playing for South Africa's Southern Kings in Super Rugby last season.
And the San Francisco 49ers have signed England's Lawrence Okoye, an Olympic shot put finalist in London, as a defensive end. He is on injured reserve for the play-off-bound club after a pre-season injury.