Former Yorkshire Carnegie centre Alex Gray has taken a huge step towards realising his dream of playing in the NFL after being named in Atlanta Falcons training squad.

Gray left Yorkshire Carnegie in February after asking for a release from the remainder of his contract for the chance to try out in the NFL. The Falcons announced this week that had signed the former England Sevens player as a tight end.

Gray , 26, signed with the Falcons and is among four international players added to practice squads for the 2017 season, according to a statement released by the NFL on Thursday. All four players are part of a new International Player Pathway program and join teams in the NFC South.

The three other players are Alex Jenkins (New Orleans Saints), Eric Nzeocha (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and defensive end Efe Obada (Carolina Panthers), who was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. Nzeocha is from Germany while the other three are from England.

“I have been working hard for this goal and to be told it was going to happen was an amazing moment,” Gray told the Atlanta Falcons official website.

Gray was named in the original extended Great Britain Sevens squad for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio before suffering an injury and had more recently signed for Yorkshire Carnegie for the 2016-17 rugby season, is heading to Flowery Branch.

The Falcons, Buccaneers, Panthers and Saints will each be given an exemption for an eleventh practice squad member – ineligible to be activated during the season. The NFC South was chosen to receive the international players in a random draw.

“This is the start of another journey,” Gray said. “It is a fantastic thing that is happening, but I am not going to get to where I want to be without keeping myself grounded. Making the decision to give this my all from rugby, there was a big transition period and it was mentally very humbling. When you have to start from scratch again, that was a huge mental battle for me. When I look back I will be very proud of the way I approached this.”

Gray was born and raised in Bishop Auckland, England. He captained England’s rugby teams to Grand Slams at the under-16 and under-18 level and played for the Newcastle Falcons and London Irish at senior level before joining Yorkshire Carnegie last summer.