BREAKING: Saints sign former NFL hopeful

Premiership champions Northampton Saints have signed George Smith after the lock chose to leave behind a potential career in American football.

The 22-year-old, standing at 6ft 8in (203cm) and weighing 138kg, was part of the NFL’s international player pathway intake earlier this year, alongside former Wales star Louis Rees-Zammit.

Smith was in the United States from late January before being enticed back to rugby and the English game with the Saints in April. He had previously played in the second division with Coventry before attempting to earn an NFL contract.

“I was out in America, but it just wasn’t really for me,” Smith told the club website. “I wanted to pursue rugby more than American football. Shieldsy [Paul Shields, Saints 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.”

Saints director of rugby Phil Dowson highlighted George Smith’s “superpower” as his unique combination of height and speed.

“The guy is unbelievably physical,” said Dowson. “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.”

News of Smith’s contract comes in the same week that hooker Sam Matavesi has decided to leave the club, and Toulon confirmed the signing of England flanker Lewis Ludlam following his earlier departure from the Saints.

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