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30th Mar 2024

Everything you need to know about Charlie Smyth, the GAA player turned NFL star

Lee Costello

Charlie Smyth

Charlie Smyth made history yesterday by becoming the first GAA player to be signed by the NFL when he put pen to paper for the New Orleans Saints as their new kicker.

Despite growing up in County Down as a young promising goalkeeper who had never played American football competitively, the youngster has found himself with an opportunity like no other.

So, who exactly is Charlie Smyth?

Where is Smyth from?

Smyth is from Mayobridge in County Down. The young goalkeeper played for the club since he was a child, and initially all of his hopes and dreams were about representing club and county, but those dreams have changed.

What sort of footballer was Smyth?

Like most promising goalkeepers, the 22-year-old was an outfield player who showed great athleticism, skill and ability on the ball, but when he was shifted into nets, those skills were still put to good use.

In 2022 Down u20s won the Ulster championship with Smyth in-between the sticks, although, you would more often than not find him joining in the attack, much like a Ethan Rafferty or Niall Morgan.

The only difference is, the youngster has played this hybrid role from a young age, unlike the keepers now who are catching up with the trend, so Conor Laverty and Down had big hopes that he and his roaming abilities were going to play a big part in the county senior team.

What did he do for a living?

Smyth was studying to be a teacher at St Mary’s University in Belfast, and had just finished his teaching placement at St Patrick’s College, Banbridge, at the end of January.

As good as the holidays might be for a teacher, and as rewarding a job as it can be as well, something tells us that if Smyth keeps progressing the way that he is, then he will never teach a class in his life again.

How did he get the opportunity to be signed by an NFL team?

Much like in the AFL, there are trials that players can attend which are called NFL Combines. These start out with large groups, and then get cut down as players are selected to progress.

Smithy, Monaghan’s Rory Beggan and Wicklow’s Mark Jackson are also hoping to be signed by NFL teams, but the Down native has made history by being the first make the breakthrough.

Why would the NFL be interested in GAA goalkeepers?

Interestingly, the role of a ‘kicker’ is a very important one in the sport, but teams found when they were picking young college students from the draft who had played as a kicker their whole youth careers, were often underdeveloped and lacked athleticism.

Although goalkeepers in the GAA are primarily standing in nets, there is a lot of athleticism, running and physicality involved, meaning that they have the perfect physiques to be considered for professional sport.

Of course, the most important role of a kicker is to kick the ball, and to do it accurately from huge distances. Kick outs in Gaelic football are one of the most important aspects of the game, and inter-county level keepers are able to place the ball where they want to, and normally without taking a big run up.

Their accuracy and precision is truly incredible, and has now been noticed by other sports, including the NFL.

What team picked Smyth?

The New Orleans Saints signed Smyth on a three-year contract as part of their draft pick, and although this doesn’t guarantee that he will be playing in the first team, anything from this point is a bonus.

The Mayobridge man is the first Irishman to be signed by an NFL team, meaning that he has made history, but there will no doubt be more who follow in his footsteps.

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