The NFL will expand its international search for talent by opening an academy in rugby-mad Australia to develop promising teenagers in the Asia-Pacific region into college and pro prospects.

The NFL Academy will open in September for student athletes aged 12 to 18, following recruitment camps taking place this summer in Australia and New Zealand, the league announced on Thursday.

Ahead of the NFL Draft, the announcement says the region is full of talent such as Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Jordan Mailata, a 6-foot-8 (2.08-meter) Australian who was deemed too big for rugby league.

“Football has changed my life, and opening an NFL Academy in Australia will no doubt help many more young people change theirs,” Mailata said in the league announcement.

The academy will be housed at A.B. Paterson College on the Gold Coast and the plans include construction of a high-performance facility on the college grounds — to be completed in 2026 — also available for community use.

Mailata, who came through the league’s International Player Pathway program, will be on the Gold Coast to announce the Eagles’ first-round draft pick.

“The Asia-Pacific region is rich in sporting talent, and I look forward to seeing the next generation of football players out there craft their own pathway to playing in the NFL in the years to come,” he said.

The move is another step in the league’s global expansion. NFL owners voted in December to authorize the league to hold eight games internationally each season.

The Green Bay Packers will play the Eagles when the NFL holds its first regular-season game in Brazil on Sept. 6. For the 2024 season, the NFL will also have three games in London along with one in Germany. And Spain is on tap in 2025 for its first game, to be played at Real Madrid’s newly renovated Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

The league already has an academy in the UK, and Europe has become a reliable source of Division I recruits.

The Asia-Pacific region has lots of potential, and not just for Aussie punters.

New Zealand sprinter Eddie Osei-Nketia switched to American football to play for Hawaii.

Rugby and Australian Rules are potentially good sources of talent like Welsh rugby union star Louis Rees-Zammit, who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs as a returner/running back/wide receiver.

For the new academy, the first recruitment camp is scheduled on June 29 at A.B. Paterson College. A second is July 6 in Sydney followed by an Aug. 24 camp in Auckland, New Zealand.

“The NFL Academy program is a significant league initiative that is driving football development efforts globally, and successfully changing the lives of young people around the world,” said Brett Gosper, head of Europe and APAC with the NFL.

“We look forward to bringing the program to the Gold Coast, Australia, and continuing to build authentic player pathways for international talent, giving more young people from across the Asia-Pacific region the opportunity to play the game in the years ahead.”

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