'Turned Down American Football' - Northampton Saints Sign Lock George Smith from NFL Player Pathway - Ruck

‘Turned Down American Football’ – Northampton Saints Sign Lock George Smith from NFL Player Pathway

Northampton Saints have confirmed the signing of lock George Smith, who joins the club from the NFL International Player Pathway. The 6ft 8in tall lock teamed up with the men in Black, Green and Gold in the final months of the 2023/24 Gallagher Premiership title-winning season, after departing the American Football training set-up.

In January of this year, Smith decided to enter the NFL’s International Player Pathway programme at the same time as former Saint Harry Mallinder, and former Wales wing Louis Rees-Zammit. But during his time in America, he was approached by Saints and teamed up with the squad in late April. Speaking on his arrival at Franklin’s Gardens, Smith said;

“I was out in America but it just wasn’t really for me,” said Smith. “I wanted to pursue rugby more than American Football. Shieldsy [Paul Shields, Head of Recruitment and Retention] rang me up asking if I wanted to come in, train with the boys and see if it was the right fit. It felt like home from day one.

“Everyone was really welcoming and Phil Dowson made it clear he wanted me to sign, so it was a good first few days. I don’t want to be playing anywhere else.”

“I took away a lot of things from the NFL experience. I am a much better athlete now than I was six, seven months ago. In terms of my athletic development, it was massive. It has only pushed me to become bigger, stronger and quicker.”

Smith’s integration into Saints’ squad overlapped with the final months of the 2023/24 Premiership season, as Northampton won their first league title for a decade.

“I have learned lots of things during my time so far with Saints,” he said. “The environment was so competitive at the time, which is what really helped me settle in really well because I love competition. It was quite easy to get stuck in with people, that was made easy because of the stage they were in, in their season with everyone wanting to get better.

“I hope my time spent with the boys and in the environment at the back end of this season will give me an advantage to hit the ground running when we return for preseason.”

Smith is Saints’ sixth confirmed new signing ahead of the 2024/25 campaign, following confirmation that Josh Kemeny, Tom West, Archie Benson, Luke Green and Fyn Brown are also joining the Club this summer.

Smith previously played for Coventry in the Championship, impressed the coaching team during his period at cinch Stadium at Franklin’s Gardens and Dowson is looking forward to having the 138kg second row available for selection next term.

Phil Dowson, Director of Rugby of Northampton Saints during the Gallagher Premiership Rugby Semi Final match between Northampton Saints and Saracens at cinch Stadium at FranklinÕs Gardens, Northampton on 31 May 2024. – PHOTO: Tom Sandberg/PPAUK

“George’s superpower is that he is 6ft 8in and he can move really quickly,” he said. “The guy is unbelievably physical. When he first arrived, we tested him and his power-per-kilogram scores were incredible – the best we’ve seen in years.

“He is a bright lad and got stuck in from the word go. We’ve got someone who is physical, smart and can play the game.

“George comes from a totally different background, there’s no academy history for him. He played well for Coventry in the Premiership Rugby Cup against Saracens and also scored against Gloucester.”