Carlin Isles spent part of Thursday and Friday reassuring rugby fans on Twitter that he was not giving up the sport.
The concern was very real when Isles, one of USA Rugby’s star sevens players, signed with the Detroit Lions as a practice squad wide receiver.
The U.S. sevens team hasn’t played since Dec. 8 and won’t play again until a Las Vegas tournament Jan. 24-26. The Lions missed out on the playoffs (again), so he may not miss a single game for the red, white and blue.
Rugby sevens makes its Olympic debut in 2016. Isles, dubbed the fastest man in American rugby, still plans to be there.
“2016 is a big deal for me,” Isles said, according to MLive.com. “That’s a goal of mine, but playing in the NFL is a blessing, too.”
Lions coach Jim Schwartz did his research on track and field stars turned NFL players, citing San Francisco 49ers defensive end/2012 Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye and sprinters turned wide receivers Bob Hayes, Renaldo Nehemiah and Trindon Holliday.
Isles, 24, has a sprinting background, too. He ran and played football at Division II Ashland University in Ohio, clocking a personal best of 10.24 seconds in the 100m and a wind-aided 10.13.
“I don’t want to compare him to, but if you want to develop one of those guys you have to give some guys a chance here or there and this was an opportunity to be able to do that because of the way our roster is and bringing some of the guys up that we have, we have a spot open,” Schwartz told reporters.
Isles reportedly ran a 4.22-second 40-yard dash in an out-of-the-blue tryout earlier this week. The NFL Draft combine record, since electronic timing began in 1999, is 4.24 seconds.
“4.2 to me is jogging,” Isles said, according to MLive.com. “I can go 4.1 all day.”
He had later tryouts planned with the Colts and Giants before the Lions scooped him up, according to the Detroit News.
At 5-foot-8 and some 160 pounds, Isles is one of the smaller receivers around the league. Can his body take the beating?
“You see rugby?” he said, according to the newspaper. “I can take the pounding for football without a doubt. I am tough and tenacious — the pounding will be no problem.”