Eagles Sign International Plumber Turned Pass Rusher

Matt Leo

Getty Former Australian rugby player Matt Leo (99) recovers a fumble for Iowa State.

The Eagles didn’t address their pass-rushing problem in the draft. Maybe a plumber from Australia can help.

Wait, what? Let’s explore that loaded statement for a minute. Philadelphia allocated defensive end Matt Leo on Monday as the team continues to fill out its post-draft roster. Leo, who played two years at Iowa State, was part of the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program and hails from Adelaide, Australia.

Leo (6-foot-7, 275 pounds) played rugby growing up and switched to football when he moved to the United States in 2015. The International Player Pathway Program was instituted by the league in 2017 as a way to provide elite international athletes the opportunity to earn a spot on an NFL roster, per NFL.com. Players selected not signed to a free-agent contract will be randomly awarded to one of the NFL’s eight divisions.

Leo played two seasons at Iowa State and recorded 33 total tackles (11.5 for loss) and three sacks. Known more as a run stopper, he was a reserve defensive end for the Cyclones and appeared in 30 games. He earned First-Team Academic All-Big 12 honors in 2019.

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From Fixing Bathrooms to Sacking Quarterbacks

Whether it’s unclogging drains or clogging running lanes, Matt Leo likes to fix things. The 27-year-old decided to pursue a career in plumbing after high school and completed an apprenticeship program in his native Australia. He also played rugby in his spare time.

Leo spent four years in the field and did everything from “sweeping and digging holes” to “installing bathrooms and water lines,” according to Tommy Birch in an in-depth feature for the Des Moines Register. He even got a chance to work on larger construction projects in hospitals and sports stadiums.

Then, Leo learned about another Australian rugby player, Jesse Williams, who went to America to pursue his dream of playing professional football. That sounded good to Leo and so he embarked on a similar quest, one that took a lot of hard work and sacrifice. He spent two years honing his craft at Arizona Western Community College before transferring to Iowa State.

“It’s a dream that every young guy here in America wants to do and only the lucky few make it to the league,” Leo told Birch. “I see it, and I’ll work my ass off for it. I believe that I can and I have all the abilities to.”


Matt Leo making an impact in his senior seasonIt's been a road rarely traveled for most college football players, but Matt Leo is making it work as he is making play after play in his senior season.2019-10-18T03:21:08.000Z

College Coach Says Leo Looks Like ‘Greek God’

Matt Leo remains a long shot to make the Eagles’ final 53-man roster. But, Leo has a shot at it and sometimes that’s all you need.

If he doesn’t make the final cuts, the big-bodied Aussie has another avenue. The NFL’s International Player Pathway Program dictates that players enrolled in the program are eligible for a practice squad exemption. That means he could earn an honorary spot as the 13th member of the Eagles’ practice squad.

“The International Player Pathway program is an important part of our ongoing efforts to grow the game globally and provide pathways for international players to make it to the NFL,” Damani Leech, NFL Chief Operating Officer of International, told NFL.com.

Leo didn’t participate in the NFL Scouting Combine so he doesn’t have an official 40 time or vertical jump. But he does have the physique, with a chiseled jawline and muscular frame. Standing at 6-foot-7 and weighing 275 pounds, Leo has been called a “Greek god.”

“We see Matt as this physical Greek god that he looks like,” Iowa State coach Matt Campbell told The Ames Gazette. “But learning to play the sport of football in such a short amount of time has been a great challenge. Matt has done everything above and beyond the call of duty to practice and get himself to this point to become a great player.”

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