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The fastest man in rugby signs with the NFL

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NFL.com, detroitlions.com and James Mortimer     27 Dec 2013     Getty Images

The team welcomed a German Football League wide receiver in for a tryout last year. There also was Havard Rugland a.k.a. "Kickalicious," the Norwegian YouTube sensation who spent all of training camp with the team.

With Detroit's playoff hopes scratched, the team was looking ahead to 2014 by hosting workouts for several players this week.

One of them was American rugby star Carlin Isles.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz confirmed Wednesday that Isles worked out with the team on Monday, running a 4.22-second 40-yard dash. Isles played football and ran track at Ashland University in Ohio. He plays wing for Team USA Rugby.

"Indianapolis has a rugby guy as a pass rusher (Daniel Adongo), and I know San Fran brought a guy in (Lawrence Okoye) that was a shot-putter or a discus guy," Schwartz said, via the Detroit Free Press.

"I mean, you're looking for athletes. It hasn't been unusual to see basketball players transition to the NFL. That's not just recently, that goes way back. Even track guys like Bob Hayes and Renaldo Nehemiah, things like that.

"An athlete's an athlete. There's skills that you can develop, and if you see something you like then you can work with him."

Adongo and Okoye have yet to make an NFL impact, and the jury remains out if this type of scouting is smart outside-the-box thinking or a waste of resources.

Isles' workout with the Lions was so impressive the team signed him to their practice squad.

The team had an open spot after promoting tight end Matt Veldman from the practice squad to the active roster to take the place of Brandon Pettigrew, who was place on injured reserve Wednesday with an ankle injury. The Lions also placed TE Dorin Dickerson on IR with a concussion.

Isles, 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, was a collegiate All-American sprinter in the 60-meters at Ashland and has also ran the 100-meters in 10.24. He's been clocked at sub-4.3 in the 40-yard dash.

"He's a legit track guy," Schwartz said. "I mean, his background happened to be rugby, but it's probably more track and that speed, that's not unusual at all to see track athletes get chances. I mean, the guy for Denver (return man Trindon Holliday) that went to LSU had a similar background and maybe even similar size.

"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.”