Recently a schoolboy rugby player from the Free State was mentioned in connection with a National Football League (NFL) opportunity. I received an email from a knowledgeable person who had done quite a bit of research on the topic. Here are excerpt from his email:
A player needs to be 3 years out of high school to be eligible for the NFL.
However the NFL International Pathway Program exists. This program is made for international prospects where they will be allowed to be on a NFL team to just learn the game without the possibility of being cut from the team. They will earn $160 000 for 16 weeks of being on the practice squad and cannot be activated to the active roster. After one year they are allowed to sign to the active roster and the minimum salary for that is $495 000 a year.
It is possible to get a profesional rugby player straight to the NFL but the guy is going to have to be a freak of nature.
The best path is via College Football at a D1 University in the USA because that will immediately give a player a way better chance at getting drafted. Then you are talking about R15 mil – R25 mil a year easily if the player is drafted after he leaves College. That will be a lot more if the player is a high round draft pick and even if he does not get drafter, he will have a big chance to sign as Undrafted Free Agent with a team and earn a minimum of R7.2 mil a year.
The only negative of playing College Football is that a player cannot earn money while he plays at the College level. A scholarship to study for free (tuition/board/living expenses) is basically the pay to play (Fees to study at a top college in American can be very expensive). But as one can see, the money these players sign up for when they make the NFL makes up for that 3-4 years where they were not allowed to earn income. The average scholarship from D1 Universities can be anywhere from $35 000 – $75 000 depending on which university you go to. The better the university, the better the education and the better the value of the scholarships.
If the player cannot make the NFL then he still has an amazing chance to make the CFL (Canadian Football League). That is generally where all the players go that cannot make the NFL out of College. In the CFL you are talking about a minimum salary of R1mil – R1.5 mil a year which is not bad. If the player is not good enough to make the CFL, then he can try and get into the XFL, which is a new league developed by Vince McMahon of WWE fame. This league was developed for players that could not make the NFL at their first try. The going pay in the XFL is about a minimum of R1 mil – R1.5 mil a year.
Let’s break it down:
Best Case Scenario:
A player gets drafted in the 3rd – 7th round of the national draft will have to be very good. He gets a salary of R15 mil – R25 mil a year (4 year contracts).
If he gets drafted in the 1st – 2nd round is unbelievably good and he will earn more than double the figure above.
For top schoolboy rugby players who have the dimensions and athleticism the can aim for the goal above because chances are far better for them to get offers from all the Top 40 universities in the US, which is an important stepping stop to success.
The source’s player evaluation of two top u18 Free State schoolboy rugby players leads to the conclusion that they have a 20-30% chance of getting drafted in the first 2 rounds.
There is a 60 – 70 % chance of players of their calibre being drafted in the 3rd – 7th rounds.
Okay Case Scenario:
The player does not get drafted and must sign as a Undrafted Free Agent. He signs for R7.2 mil a year (3 year contract).
If he gets developed into a average player then he can easily sign for R20mil – R40 mil a year, and he could exceed this value if he is good.
This will amount to a 30-40% chance for school rugby players in South Africa belonging to the athleticism tier below that of the two Free State boys, provided they can get signed by a Top 20 University.
Worst Case Scenario:
The rugby player does not make the NFL at all.
He can now be signed to a practice squad. Here the minimum salary is R145 000 a week for 16 weeks (It can be more depending on the team)
If the player does not make it to a practice squad, he has the CFL or XFL options mentioned above.
NFL Average Salaries per position in 2018