Alex Gray won’t see the field for the Atlanta Falcons in 2017. He’s not eligible to, but he’ll remain the 11th player on the Falcons’ practice squad all season, if all goes well. As part of the league’s ongoing goal to get more international participation and attention for American football, they created a program for players like Gray, who are coming from other countries.
Of course, Gray isn’t simply a football player from another part of the world. He played rugby before he came to the States, meaning he’s learning an awful lot of things at once this summer.
There’s a good piece on what that experience must feel like from Will McFadden, formerly of The Falcoholic, over at the mothership.
Imagine trying to make it in the NFL despite never playing a down of ?— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 4, 2017
That's what @AlexShaggyGray is doing.
- https://t.co/HmhE9j7OJn pic.twitter.com/DXpadoMp4E
The great thing about this
“It’s really funny, actually. When I wanted to learn about the NFL a bit more, when I thought very early on that me doing something like this could be an option, it was the Atlanta Falcons that I used to watch,” Gray explained after a training camp practice with his new team. “They had a hell of an offense here; they were so explosive. I really enjoyed watching them.
“When I met up with the guys from the NFL and they said ‘who do you enjoy watching?’ I actually said, ‘Well, I’ve been watching the Atlanta Falcons.’ And, lo and behold, I’ve ended up here. It’s crazy, but with all of the things that have happened, it’s just made me think that this is where I’m supposed to be.”
That kinda does feel like destiny, but more than that, the international practice squad spot (or whatever the hell it’s called) is a boon for Gray and the Falcons. If Gray develops well over the course of the next year, he’ll get a legitimate shot with Atlanta or another team. If he really comes along nicely, the Falcons might have yet another tight end to add to an already strong, athletic depth chart. At worst, Gray doesn’t pan out and heads back to England to excel again at a sport he was already good at.
Go read Will’s full piece and get a closer look at Gray. You’ll want to file his name away in case he’s able to crack the roster a year from now.