A TOP rugby player who has broken into the lucrative world of American football returned to his old stomping ground complete with a documentary film crew.
Former England sevens and Yorkshire Carnegie centre Alex Grey led the NFL film team on a tour of Barnard Castle School, the place that shaped his rugby career.
The Bishop Auckland-born athlete, who played No8 in the school’s first XV including at the Twickenham final of the Daily Mail Cup, spent his 26th birthday showing viewers the dining hall where photographs of other notable athletes hang to inspire students.
He also interviewed the school’s director of sport Martin Pepper, who helped hone the 6ft 6in athlete into such a successful player, for four half-hour fly on the wall documentaries called NFL Undiscovered.
Mr Pepper told the cameras: “This is such an exciting opportunity. Alex has already achieved such a lot in rugby. He always plays with a smile on his face and certainly has the skills. He works and trains really hard and this dedication and commitment can be transferred to other sports, such as NFL. He is a great role model and proves what can be achieved with hard work and a passion for sport.”
Nicknamed Shaggy, after the Scooby Doo character, Alex joined the Falcons Academy while at a school. He later played professionally for London Irish, toured with England U18s, was World Series Player of the Year and only missed out on the 2012 Olympics sevens competition because of an injury.
He has just completed a season with Leeds Carnegie and was deciding his future when a joke became a reality.
“I’d been watching NFL Undiscovered with my mum and the next day was talking about my future with my agent,” recalled Alex, a former Durham house member, whose brother Josh still attends Barnard Castle School.
“I just suggested as a joke that perhaps we should try and make our fortune in NFL and the next thing I’m telling a scout how tall I am and how much I weigh. They must have liked what they saw as I was invited to Florida in February and have been training and learning the game.”
He has just signed for NFL team Atlanta Falcons where he will join the reserve squad as a tight-head wide receiver, where he is expected to earn up to £250,000 a year.
“This is such a great school and turns out very rounded students,” said Alex. “I was immensely proud to play for the first XV. It was as professional a regime as it is possible to be without actually being professional.
“We put in a lot of hours in the gym and I was up against students who were already playing international rugby, which stood me in good stead and hopefully will help me move forward in NFL.”