Adam Zaruba has travelled the world with the Canadian rugby sevens team. On Thursday, he'll likely mark another tick on his bucket list by playing in Lambeau Field.
It's the first NFL exhibition game for the six-foot-five 265-pounder from North Vancouver, who is looking to catch on with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Packers will be his first test.
"It's something that I'm having trouble wrapping my head around right now — that I'm going to play the Green Bay Packers in a couple of days," said Zaruba.
The 26-year-old Canadian, who signed a three-year contract with the Eagles on July 24, is hoping to follow in the footsteps of Australian rugby league star Jarryd Hayne, who made the San Francisco 49ers in 2015 as a running back and returner.
Hayne, who spent most of the season on the practice squad, returned to rugby league after one season.
Zaruba, who played football at high school and briefly at Simon Fraser University, may be short on gridiron experience but is long on physical skills. A big man who can run past — or over — people, his rugby highlight reel contains some eye-popping one-handed grabs.
But his learning curve in the NFL is Everest-steep.
"I've kind of been tossed in the deep end without knowing how to swim," he said. "So I've just been trying to figure everything out as I can."
After little more than a week at camp under his belt, Zaruba's head is reeling.
"It's pretty crazy," he said. "It's very very cool but it's tough. It's an adjustment for sure from what I've been used to.
"Physically I'm doing fine. It's just understanding the plays and getting into the playbook. The technical aspects have been challenging, to say the least."
Training camp is fast-moving, so there is not a lot of time to stop and take stock. Most of the day is structured and when he gets back to his hotel, he says he has about 30 to 45 minutes at most before he needs to go to sleep.
"I think that I will start having more fun when I can trust my instincts out on the field and not have to think so much," he said.
"Right now I'm just really trying to learn as much as possible, so it is a little stressful because obviously I want to perform well and represent myself properly. It can be hard to do that when you don't exactly know what you're doing."
No stranger to elite athletes, he says NFLers are "pretty incredible."
He says fellow Canadian rugby players like John Moonlight, Harry Jones and Nate Hirayama are "just as capable physically. It's just (NFLers) have a different skill set.
"There's a lot more specific-job people in football. In rugby it's more like you have to be sort of a jack-of-trades kind of thing, especially in sevens. There's definitely some pretty talented athletes here."
Zaruba, who is wearing No. 80 in camp, says he is trying to take it one day at a time, rather than look ahead.
"At this point I'm going to do whatever I need to do to play, to get on the team, in whatever capacity that is."
Special teams will likely also afford him another chance to shine.
The Eagles have three established tight ends already in Zach Ertz, Brent Celek, and Trey Burton.
Ertz, who signed a five-year contract extension during the off-season, had 78 catches for 816 years and four TDs last season. He has the most receptions (247) and receiving yards (2,840) by an Eagles TE in his first four NFL seasons.
Celek, who made 14 catches for 155 yards in 2016, is a 10-year veteran who ranks eighth in Eagles history with 4,868 receiving yards. Burton had 37 catches for 327 yards last season and was an important special teams player.
The Eagles also have tight end Anthony Denham, who spent most of last year on the practice roster, and free agent rookie Billy Brown in camp.
A new rule change may help Zaruba in his bid to take it all in. Instead of two cutdown days (from 90 to 75 and then to 53), teams now just have to get their roster down to 53 by 4 p.m. ET on Sept. 3.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press