Since 2013, James Develin is undisputed as the New England Patriots’ fullback: the 30-year-old is one of the best players the NFL has to offer at his position, and a valuable role player for the reigning world champions on both offense and special teams. But while Develin is a model of consistency, he did suffer one major injury over the course of his career: a broken leg suffered during the preseason forced him to sit out all of 2015.
The Patriots did not immediately fill Develin’s role after his injury, and instead waited until mid-December to add a true fullback to their active roster. That fullback was Joey Iosefa, who went on to appear in two games for the club before he was cut again and ultimately returned to where he originally came from: New England’s practice squad. Between his promotion on December 19 and his release nine days later, Iosefa saw considerable action.
The rookie, who entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and did not come to New England until late October, played 20 of a possible 66 snaps in his debut against the Tennessee Titans — a game that saw him lead the Patriots’ depleted backfield with 14 carries for 51 yards, including a 15-yard scamper during which he ran over Tennessee Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh.
Iosefa played a mere three offensive snaps one week later and registered only one carry for no yards gained. He did play half of New England’s special teams snaps that day, though. Ultimately, however, the team decided to release the Hawaii product again before stashing him on its practice squad. Iosefa went on to sign a futures deal with the Patriots after the season had ended, but with Develin back was let go for good during 2016’s roster cutdowns.
While Iosefa failed to get another gig in the NFL since leaving New England, he has found a new home — one Patriots special teams ace Nate Ebner surely approves of: rugby. The 27-year-old joined the sport in 2018 and yesterday announced that he would join Major League Rugby’s defending champions, the Seattle Seawolves, playing the centre position. “I am just excited about the rugby culture here in Seattle,” Iosefa said through a team statement.
Iosefa is not the first pro football player to move into rugby. Nate Ebner, for example, played in the 2016 Olympic games representing the United States in the rugby sevens tournament. Before the two, another ex-Patriot made the move from one sport to the other: linebacker Richard Tardits played 27 games for New England between 1990 and 1992 but later also went on to play rugby union for the U.S. team.
Whether or not Iosefa’s rugby career will also take him to the level of international representation remains to be seen, but he could very well become the third Patriot to make an impact on the pitch.