Brotherhood is something that’s built on love. It’s about knowing where you came from and understanding the adversity you overcame to reach a goal. For Christian Wade, the goal was the NFL and he felt that tight bond between he and his teammates during Thursday night’s preseason game against the Colts.
The Bills entire sideline erupted into celebration after Wade scored his first NFL touchdown on his first carry. It was a 65-yard run in the fourth quarter that helped the Bills earn a 24-16 win over the Colts. An impressive run, but not something that should result in that type of reaction from an entire team? Wrong. The Bills had a sideline party for Wade because they know just how difficult it is to be in Wade’s shoes.
Wade’s journey is one not like many others. The 28-year-old is a former rugby star from London who decided to take a shot at American football this year thanks to the NFL’s International Pathway Program. Wade played 10 years of professional rugby before retiring. With the unimaginable challenges that come along with switching to a new sport at a professional level and moving to a new country, his teammates were as thrilled as him when he reached the end zone.
“One of the coolest moments of my football career, Christian Wade taking that to the house on his first NFL play,” Josh Allen said. “Big congrats to him. You saw how we reacted on the sideline. We all have an affinity for him, what he’s been through and the challenge he’s been going through trying to learn the game of football and he gets an opportunity and he makes the most of it. I wasn’t even on the field and it was just awesome.”
The first-year NFL player received the game ball but gave thanks to his entire team for helping him make it to this moment.
“It’s a whole team effort so if the guys, if the o-line didn’t block the way they needed to block and hold the guys where they were at then that hole wouldn’t have opened up, so I’m just thankful for the guys,” said Wade. “Like I said in my speech, when they gave me the game ball I just said thanks to everyone for their patience and it’s like I’ve been messing up in training and crazy stuff.”
The former rugby standout knows what success is like in rugby being ranked third on the Premiership Rugby’s all-time list for tries (touchdowns) with 82. Having a taste of success in the NFL inspires Wade to keep breaking down boundaries.
“This definitely one of the hardest things that I’ve had to do in my life, in terms of like studying and the mental stress and the physical stress,” Wade explained. “It has definitely been really challenging for me, and I think like moments like this kind of makes it all worth it. It just shows that if you do put the hard work in then good things do come.”
Veterans on the team like Frank Gore have noticed Wade’s work ethic.
“It’s tough to play this game at a high level,” Gore said. “I’ve been playing this game since I was four years old and this was just his first football game. I’m happy to see him getting better every day.”
NFL International Player Pathway Program fellow member Jakob Johnson who is from Germany, now on the New England Patriots said a touchdown like Wade’s touches so much more than the just the United States.
“It just makes that path easier for the kids that are playing back home right now, when coaches can see players from outside the US make plays,” Johnson said.
The running back group knew what Wade was capable of from seeing his talent in practice, telling him he would have a big play in his first game. Wade says the group has been huge in helping him learn the fundamentals of the game.
“I mean he’s a pro you know, he knows it’s going to take hard work,” Marcus Murphy said. “He asks just the small things you know he’s worried about the details, just about steps and just trying to get everything right. Just trying to be on the right page and I mean I think he was kind of anxious until it was time to get in and then he got in and calmed down and did his thing. I think he will be good in the future.”
Showcasing his speed on a 65-yard run can only help his future. Wade is working to make the 53-man roster or a spot on the practice squad as there is an international player practice squad exemption that allows the team to carry an 11th practice player. Wade said he feels like a four-year-old amongst the best players in the league and knows the grind is just beginning.
“It gives me the motivation to keep going," Wade said. "It gives me the positive energy that I’m making strides in the right direction. I know I’ve got loads of work to do."
Wade said scoring the touchdown was the best feeling in the world. Part of that feeling is seeing backbreaking work pay off in a unique journey of retiring from a sport where you were considered a superstar to entering a league where you are fighting for a roster spot. The other part of that “best feeling in the world” is being embraced by your new brothers. Coming in as a foreigner, Wade doesn't feel too foreign anymore in his new home.