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I used to play in eighth tier of English rugby – now I’m an NFL star with Bills

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I used to play in eighth tier of English rugby – now I’m an NFL star with Bills

BRITISH NFL star Travis Clayton has made the unlikely journey from Basingstoke to the Buffalo Bills.

Clayton recently played rugby union in the eighth tier of the English pyramid, for Counties 2 Hampshire Division club Basingstoke.

British NFL star Travis Clayton is pictured at an event

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British NFL star Travis Clayton is pictured at an eventCredit: Getty
Clayton was drafted in the seventh round by the Buffalo Bills

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Clayton was drafted in the seventh round by the Buffalo BillsCredit: Getty
Clayton's draft card as the 221st overall pick

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Clayton’s draft card as the 221st overall pickCredit: Getty
The Englishman celebrates with his mother after his life-changing moment

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The Englishman celebrates with his mother after his life-changing momentCredit: Getty

Now the 6-foot-7, 303-pounder is playing in the top level of global sport as an offensive lineman for the Bills.

Clayton was selected with the 221st overall pick of the 2024 NFL Draft, having recently participated in the International Pathway Program.

The 23-year-old showed his worth at the Draft Combine, where he ran the 40-yard dash in an incredible 4.79 seconds.

His mark was faster than all offensive lineman in the Combine over the past 10 years.

“His measurables are, wow, off the page,” Bills general manager Brandon Beane said.

It has been an incredible rise for Clayton, who did not play American football growing up – but always dreamed of playing in the NFL one day.

“I followed the sport probably for the last four to five years,” Clayton told The U.S. Sun. 

“I always had a passion to try a new sport – and everything about the sport…how fast it moves.

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“My abilities, I thought, were perfect attributes to play in the NFL.”

Clayton, who has experience as a boxer, took part in the NFL Academy in 2019.

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And he was given the chance to participate in the International Pathway Program this year. 

“I already knew of the coaches and personnel within the NFL Academy,” he added.

“They had an idea of my structure and my abilities.

“It was just about showing them in the 10-week program in Florida and then hopefully getting picked for a team which, for me, has happened.”

Clayton’s dreams came true when he was picked in the seventh round of the NFL Draft by the Bills.

And his mom was with him to celebrate.

“It was the best thing in the world – nothing I think will compare to that,” he says. 

“I didn’t really have time to process it as it was a whirlwind moment. 

“Even getting thrown on stage once I got drafted, I even had a speech ready but that all just went out of the window.

“It’s still kind of a pinch-me moment. 

Clayton ran the 40-yard dash in an incredible 4.79 seconds

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Clayton ran the 40-yard dash in an incredible 4.79 secondsCredit: NFL Network
Clayton took part in the NFL's International Pathway Program

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Clayton took part in the NFL’s International Pathway ProgramCredit: NFL Network
The 23-year-old talks to The U.S. Sun about his move to the United States

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The 23-year-old talks to The U.S. Sun about his move to the United StatesCredit: The U.S. Sun

“But when I got to the Bills and saw my name on the locker, that’s when I kind of realized it’s real.”

It has been a tough learning curve for Clayton, who is playing in a completely new sport.

But he has been relishing the experience so far.

“A lot to learn of course…but everyone at the Bills has been so welcoming,” he says.

“I feel like at the Buffalo Bills, it’s such a family organization, everyone is close. 

“You can go to anyone about any situation, like family issues or any issue outside of football there is someone to speak to. 

“Every offensive lineman there, if I have a question about a different movement or like a different hand movement, they are always there to support me.”

Clayton was initially starstruck by seeing Bills quarterback Josh Allen up close – but quickly faded.

“He’s such a great player in the NFL and such a big name. But after a week or so, he’s my teammate and that’s how you have to look at it,” he said.

Clayton is bracing himself for the cold winters in Buffalo. 

“I need to buy a long coat – maybe many coats,” he jokes.

“It should be good – hopefully not too much snow but you never know in Buffalo.”

And he has been enjoying life off the field in his new life in the United States.

Clayton (second right) is one of a number of international players who have made NFL rosters this year

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Clayton (second right) is one of a number of international players who have made NFL rosters this yearCredit: Getty

“I like the food portions – they’re a lot larger,” he says.

“I’ve been loving every single thing about America so far.”

Clayton says his dream is to play in the Super Bowl – and take part in an NFL game in London.

“It would be great to play in the UK as my friends, peers and family would be able to watch,” he says.

“But my main goal is to be a starting tackle in the Super Bowl.”

Clayton is the third British athlete to make an NFL roster this year, alongside the Kansas City Chiefs running back Louis Rees-Zammit and Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Praise Olatoke.

And he believes the trio can inspire the next generation of British NFL stars.

“I think many kids over the UK will look at us as role models and hopefully they can start playing flag football,” he says. 

“Hopefully me here can show there is a pathway to getting into the NFL and the dream could become a reality.”

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