Detroit - Carlin Isles, a 24-year-old US Sevens wing, touted as the
fastest man in rugby, was signed to a practice squad receiver contract
on Thursday by the NFL's Detroit Lions.
VIDEO: Watch Carlin Isles do his thing - at speed!
The Lions, eliminated from
American football playoff 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
last year, underwent a tryout session for the Lions on Monday that
included running the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds.
"I'm very happy," Isles told ESPN.
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."
A spot opened for Isles after the Lions
promoted tightend Matt Veldman from the practice squad to the active
roster to replace injured Brandon Pettigrew ahead of Detroit's
season-ending game on 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.
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.
Isles, who has a
YouTube highlight of his own that has millions of views, plays for the
Gentlemen of Aspen club team and has 11 caps for the USA Rugby Sevens
squad. His goal remains to play in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
"That is a goal of mine - 2016 is a big deal for me," he said. "But playing in the NFL is a blessing too."
Other NFL clubs have turned outside the usual US collegiate feeder system for talent this year.
Daniel Adongo has played two games at linebacker this season for the
playoff-bound Indianapolis Colts after playing for the Kings in Super Rugby last season.
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 playoff-bound club after a pre-season injury.