Wade scored a 65-yard touchdown with his first touch of the ball
By James Simpson
Last Updated: 14/08/19 7:59pm
Buffalo Bills running back and former England rugby union international Christian Wade said his NFL debut was “like a dream come true”.
Last October, Wade left Wasps – for whom he made 165 appearances from 2011-2018 – to pursue a career in American football, and he joined the Bills in April as part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program.
The 28-year-old from Slough went through OTAs and training camp and finally saw his first game action last Friday when Buffalo faced off against the Indianapolis Colts in their first preseason outing.
With his first – and only – touch of the game, Wade raced 65 yards to the end zone and was promptly mobbed by his team-mates.
In a conference call this week, he said: “It couldn’t have happened in a better way. Before the game, I was told I was going to be ‘mic’d’ up for NFL Films.
“Even leading up to the game I wasn’t sure whether I would be involved. I only found out the day before that I’d feature in either the third or the fourth quarter.
“And then obviously, to be able to get out on to the field, play a few snaps and obviously my first run play.
“It couldn’t have happened in a better way, it was like a dream come true. It’s what dreams are made of.”
The rugby-NFL crossover
Plenty of tremendous athletes enter the NFL – most of them with a large amount of football experience – but there were (and still are) questions over whether Wade’s rugby skills will translate to the NFL.
Does he have the right technique? Will he hold up to the rigours of getting hit multiple times a game? And can he utilise the skills that helped him score the third-most tries in Premiership Rugby?
Although he found the end zone, Wade said: “I did it in a fairly unorthodox way, I guess.
“The way I did my hand off, I kind of got in trouble for that. Initially I had it in the right pocket, but when I realised I was going to cut back, I went back to taking the ball like I was catching a rugby ball.
“[The Bills coaches] have talked about working on my pocket and my tracking. Those are the kind of things I can obviously improve on and I’m still learning.
“But I think one of the big positives is that obviously the skills that transfer over from playing rugby and all my experience during the ten years that I’ve been playing, that’s definitely going to help me in the game of football.”
When asked if his sport switch was vindicated with his touchdown run, Wade said: “I knew I’d made the right decision when I made the decision.
“It was something that didn’t just come overnight, I knew I was making the right decision to pursue football and pursue this new journey, all to better myself as an athlete physically and mentally.
“But I think what it does do for me internally is it shows all the hard work I’ve put in so far, I’m definitely doing the right things and heading in the right direction.
“It definitely does that for me and motivates me to keep pushing and keep working hard. It has been a lot of hard work and a lot of grinding, mentally as well where I doubted myself a little bit but still been pushing through.
“And a moment like that has just given me a little bit of a release where I can say all this hard work is actually paying off.”
The Bills travel to Carolina this Friday night to face the Panthers on Friday night, which means an all-Brit battle, as Wade will line up against defensive end Efe Obada, who broke through for the Panthers last season.
Obada, like Wade, came through the International Pathway Program. He became the first player to earn a spot on a team’s active roster through it, before earning the game ball with a one-sack, one-interception performance in his competitive debut.
Both players were at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium stadium for the final NFL Academy trials in early July, and Wade said the pair will spend time together and “catch up” ahead of the contest.
“I will get to see him,” he said. “We will also be practicing against them before playing against them at the weekend.
“It will be a fun week for both of us to be the two guys from London battling it out on the football field in America.
“It’s going to be awesome.”
Wade will continue his first to make the Bills’ 53-man roster and you can catch him in action live on Sky Sports when Buffalo visit the Detroit Lions on Saturday, August 24.
Follow the NFL preseason action on Sky Sports and NFL Game Pass.