James McCourt has taken a step towards becoming the first Irish-born NFL player in 37 years after he was claimed off waivers by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Tuesday.
Born in Dublin, McCourt moved to Florida when he was eight. He played college football at the University of Illinois.
"It’s impressive. That part of it you like,” Jaguars head coach Doug Pederson said at a press conference when asked about McCourt’s leg strength.
"And, obviously, the consistency is what you look for in kickers. And it’ll be a good opportunity for him and then for us to keep going through the process.
"We’ve still got a little bit of time here before kicks mean something. But it’ll be a good opportunity for him."
Pederson added that the Jaguars are sending McCourt to Atlanta where he will meet up with the team for their final preseason game against the Falcons. He is currently the only kicker on the Jaguars' roster, and with their regular season getting underway on September 11th against Washington, he has a considerable chance of playing.
It’s official: the Jacksonville Jaguars have claimed K James McCourt off of waivers from the Los Angeles Chargers, the team has just announced.
Ireland is a step closer to ending its 37 year wait for an active NFL player ☘️🏈
— Michael McQuaid (@Michael_NFL) August 23, 2022
McCourt kicked a school record eight field goals of 50 yards or more during his three years as a starter at Illinois.
"I grew up in Dartry Park in Dublin 6," McCourt explained in 2019.
"I went to school in Ranelagh. I was there for four years up to second class.
"I played rugby for Lansdowne and for Belvedere. I fell in love with rugby. I'm cousins with Garry Ringrose."
'The NFL is something I do I strive for'
Dubliner Neil O'Donoghue, a kicker who was drafted in 1977 and played for the Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and St Louis Cardinals, was the last Irish player to feature in the NFL.
Another Irish player, Daniel Whelan - a punter from Enniskerry - was signed by the New Orleans Saints earlier this year but was released in July.
"Obviously the NFL is something I do work for and I strive for," McCourt said three years ago, "that’s the dream of everyone, and if the opportunity presents itself I’m definitely going to put everything I can towards that."
Featured image: University of College / Shutterstock.com