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A historic night for the International Player Pathway program

Oh what a night!

Despite day three of the NFL Draft historically serving up late-round gems such as Puka Nacua and Brock Purdy, I cannot admit to watching every single pick on the final night in previous years.

But I was glued to the action from Detroit on Saturday and it was incredible to witness some historic and emotional moments for the International Player Pathway program as offensive linemen Travis Clayton (United Kingdom) and Bayron Matos (Dominican Republic) found their way to the NFL.

After a long and what was sure to be an exciting but nervous wait, Clayton received the phone call he had been working towards throughout the IPP camp in Florida this winter. After ending the call, Clayton said: "I'm going to Buffalo!"

And then Clayton was mobbed by fellow IPP signees in Irish kicker Charlie Smythe (New Orleans Saints), Australian tight end Patrick Murtagh (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Welsh receiver/running back Louis Rees-Zammit (Kansas City Chiefs). All had flown in from their respective teams and were in Detroit to support and cheer on their IPP brothers, indicating how quickly this group of elite athletes – and their coaches – had become a football family forever linked as the Class of 2024.

Former NFL offensive lineman Kevin Boothe took to the stage and announced that Clayton – a former NFL Academy graduate from Basingstoke – was the 221st selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. Goosebumps!

It felt historic as Travis marched down the same corridor walked by first overall pick Caleb Williams two days earlier. The talented multi-sport 22-year-old who has tried his hand at rugby, rowing and even the skeleton before turning his attention to the gridiron draped the union flag over his shoulders and became the first Brit to be drafted into the NFL from the International Player Pathway. Given the successes of the NFL Academy and the IPP program, he most certainly won't be the last.

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said on air: "I love it. That is awesome. He had a phenomenal workout and I think he got drafted off of that workout."

Within minutes of the 2024 NFL Draft concluding, the 6-foot-7, 313-pound Matos – who was being pursued by many teams across the league – had his dreams come true as he received a phone call from the Miami Dolphins, who quickly snapped up the former University of South Florida basketball star as an undrafted free agent.

So, that's now five from the IPP Class of 2024 either signed or drafted. With the hope of more to come as teams work their way through rookie and veteran mini-camps in May and June before heading on to training camps in July and August.

But as of right now, I'm desperately mapping out my preseason training camp tour and seeing if I can make stops in Miami, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Kansas City and New Orleans. After interviewing each of these guys on Zoom before they headed to the IPP camp in January, it will be pretty cool to catch up with them in their NFL environments during the summer.

The Fab Five – along with IPP legends who have gone before them like our very own Efe Obada or Australia's Jordan Mailata – are living proof that this game is going global at a very fast rate.

There are elite and exciting athletes scattered across the globe who have never played a down of American football. And I have every confidence that the IPP scouts and coaches are going to find them and turn them into the next set of feel-good headlines and NFL-bound stars.