There are now a number of pathways for international talent to reach the NFL - which is why one of Aotearoa's local stars is heading to play professionally in Germany.
Germany is a second chance for Auckland's Lance Leota, who was a junior college standout in the US before giving everything up for his family.
1 NEWS first met Leota back in 2018 at an open trial where scouts were looking for the next breakout star, after former rugby league player Jordan Mailata achieved his NFL dream.
Leota was well on his way to reaching his own dream, playing in California on his way to the college level.
But that all changed when he rushed back home to his sick mum and when she passed away, he stayed to look after his dad.
“There was a lot of things that I could've done while I was there but I couldn't,” Leota told 1 NEWS.
“I had to attend to this.”
Instead, Leota adjusted to life back in New Zealand - working and playing locally with his professional football dream all but over.
Then a single moment changed everything.
“It was weird, I got a call at 1:30 in the morning,” Loeta said.
“’Who is this guy?’ He told me, 'hey Lance, are you still good to play? We have an opportunity here for you if you want to be a professional.”
It was a scout from years ago, wanting the defensive tackle to be part of a new professional league in Germany where the sport is growing.
Ex-NFL players have signed to the new league and the NFL's international pathway scouts will be watching.
“That could punch in my ticket to my dreams,” Leota said.
His first professional contract is a big deal for dad, his extended family and his Auckland club coaches.
The 24-year-old leaves this month but knows mum will never be far away, with the same reason that brought him home now the big driver behind his second chance.