Charlie Smyth on making it to the NFL: ‘It feels a bit surreal...I have the ability to turn heads in training camp’

Smyth signed with the New Orleans Saints last Friday after impressing at the NFL Combine and on his pro day

Charlie Smyth smiling at the camera
Smyth to NOLA Smyth signed with the New Orleans Saints last Friday after impressing at the NFL Combine and on his pro day

NEW ORLEAN’S newest import, Charlie SMyth has said that his opportunity to play in the NFL as surreal in an interview with Sky Sports.

The Mayobridge and Down goalkeeper spoke about how the process of signing with the Saints has been a whirlwind of an experience.

The former U20 Ulster championship winner said: “I suppose it feels a bit surreal, just coming from the position I have been where, obviously, you’re playing Gaelic football back home and just coming from this position where I have been a big fan of the NFL this past seven or eight years and now I have the chance to kick in the Superdome in front of 73,000 people, I just can’t wait to get started.”

Smyth was signed by the New Orleans Saints last Friday and will fill the international player slot on their roster after coming through the league’s International Player Pathway via Tadhg Leader’s program, Leader Kicking.

Smyth returned home over the Easter weekend to train and celebrate with his family before rejoining his new team to prepare for the new season and fight for his place on the 53-man roster come the start of the season.

“I suppose I don’t know what I don’t know at this stage because I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been in a training camp with an American football team before and I suppose it’s all new to me and to everyone who has helped me with this journey so far because this is the first year with the IPP that there has been kickers and punters,” said Smyth.

“I just feel very privileged to be the first person that has got signed and please god that some of the other lads I’ve been training with get picked up and signed because they’re definitely good enough also.”

Smyth was one of four Irish athletes to be selected to go through the programme, the others being fellow Galic football goalkeepers Rory Beggan and Mark Jackson along with Tadhg’s brother Darragh Leader, who played professional rugby for Connacht and was a member of the Irish Rugby squad under Joe Schmidt, however, he never received a cap for Ireland.

Out of the four Irish athletes, Smyth clearly was the one who had his eyes set on this dream for the longest, having tried his hand once before at living the American dream.

Charlie spoke about an email he sent to the NFL when he turned 18, asking to be considered as a kicker given his experience in that field through Gaelic football.

“I suppose me being a naïve kid like I was at the time, I just thought I could skip it all and go straight to the NFL,” recounted Smyth who is the first-ever Irish athlete to be signed through the International Player Pathway programme.

Charlie Smyth smiling at the Indianapolis Colts' Lucas Oil Stadium
Saint Smyth The Down goalkeeper signed with the NFC South franchise last Friday. PICTURE: NFL UK

“It really has come full circle, I suppose I always could see myself with the ability that I have in kicking with free kicks in Gaelic football and I always thought I could transfer my skills over to American football and in the last six or seven months I have proven that I can do that.”

“It’s just about now going into training camp and showing to all the coaches that I have the ability to be a starting kicker for the Saints,” said the St Mary’s College student.

He will have competition for a starting berth in the team as the Saints currently have a two-year NFL veteran on their books in Blake Grupe.

“I know it’s not going to be easy because they already have a very good kicker, I feel like I have the ability to turn heads in training camp and I can’t wait to show what I can do.”

Smyth signed for the Saints on the same day that Welsh Rugby prodigy Louis Rees-Zammit signed for the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs.