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Former high school rugby player earns shot at becoming next Kiwi in NFL

Former Kelston Boys High rugby player turned American footballer Lone Toailoa may be the next Kiwi in the NFL.

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Lone Toailoa, 25, is just one of 11 athletes selected for the NFL’s international pathway programme. Source: 1 NEWS

The 25-year-old first fell in love with the game after playing countless hours of gridiron on the PlayStation and now he's the first Kiwi to be invited to the exclusive NFL international pathways programme.

It's the same camp NRL star Valentine Holmes went through before making it to the New York Jets training squad.

The last month has been filled with anxious anticipation as Toailoa awaited an offer to the programme after submitting a highlights video.

“We turned in the video in December and just a whole month waiting by my phone and just wondering if today was the day I was going to get the call that could potentially change my life. Or maybe it will be tomorrow or maybe it will never come,” Toailoa said.

The life changing call eventually came, with the defensive lineman beating out thousands of players from around the world, becoming just one of 11 athletes selected to the programme.

Toailoa made the journey six years ago to the USA to pursue his dream of playing in the NFL and his recent selection takes him one step closer to that goal.

Thanks to the help of WIL sports, an agency sponsoring Kiwi athletes playing minority sports, two years in his junior college season he earned a scholarship at the University of California Berkley.

He is now set to spend nine weeks working out with some of the league's best coaches, before scouts select just four players to be on an NFL roster.

“I came here to the USA to play in the NFL. That has always been my main goal: try and make it pro. It's always been a dream of mine.

“This opportunity is very big. It’s an opportunity for people from our neck of the woods to come to USA to play for the NFL.”

Toailoa started out playing for fun at Auckland’s Grey Lynn Park, but the NFL hopeful says the game has turned into much more than a pastime.

“Football has given me everything I have right now - my degree, I met my fiancé and her family through the sport. Everything I have right now is all because of football, all of my experiences,” he said.