Buffalo Bills draft Travis Clayton despite having no background in American football

Travis Clayton waves after being picked by the Buffalo Bills during round seven of the 2024 NFL draft at Campus Martius Park and Hart Plaza on April 27, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Imagine getting picked to play for an NFL team despite having no background in the sport. 

That's what happened with English rugby player Travis Clayton and the Buffalo Bills. Clayton was selected by the team with the 221st pick in the seventh round.

"It was all a bit of a blur, but luckily I managed to get on stage in time, dragged left, right and center," a still breathless Clayton said with a Bills cap on his head during a Zoom call. "I hope I did it right on stage."

The 23-year-old Clayton has a head start on many of his Pathway Program 2024 classmates, who took part in a 10-week training camp-type workout in Florida this winter.

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At 6-foot-7 and 303 pounds, Clayton has long been into athletics, having taken up rugby and boxing, and dabbled in soccer, rowing and tennis growing up, before drawing the line on a chance to try skeleton.

"I didn’t really fancy going head-first on a train down a skip slope, so I actually declined that," he said with a laugh.

However, American football has been on his radar since 2019, when he took part in the NFL Academy.

"I love the physical side of things. Being on the offensive line, being able to take your anger out on people legally, it’s great," he said. "I can just use my strength to my abilities."

Clayton landed on the Bills radar after sending one of their scouts to take in the Pathway Program workouts. Soon after, Bills offensive line coach Aaron Kromer was studying a tape of Clayton, and forwarded it to general manager Brandon Beane.

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"He was like, 'Man, this guy’s athletic. Obviously, raw,’" Beane said of Kromer’s reaction, which eventually led to Buffalo using its ninth and final pick on Clayton.

The Bills can take a patient approach in developing Clayton.

For the first time this season, each team will have a 17th roster spot on the practice squad specifically available for an international player. Teams also are permitted to promote an international practice squad player to the active roster a maximum of three times throughout the season — increasing opportunities for players to develop and get a chance to play.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.