The pay-per-view audience for today's Rugby World Cup final between New Zealand and South Africa in Johannesburg will grow by several NFL executives and scouts. The object of their interest is Jonah Lomu, a 6-foot-5, 260-pound New Zealander who runs 100 meters just a step or two slower than world-class sprinters.
Lomu, 20, doesn't talk to sports writers but that doesn't mean there haven't been volumes written about him. After New Zealand thrashed England in the semifinals, a London Daily Telegraph columnist described Lomu as "the most exciting player to hit rugby since the game was invented."
The New Zealand Herald reported Thursday that the reverend from Lomu's church had been asked by Lomu's father to postpone the post-championship celebration planned for his son. The Rev. Peni Mafi said the father had told him they "were going to Dallas to talk about a contract. He said it would be worth millions but wouldn't elaborate."
The Cowboys insist that nobody from New Zealand is coming their way. The story, a spokesman said, is "completely false. We think the father or the agent is using this as a publicity stunt."
Still, there are NFL teams aware of Lomu and eager to take a look. "I'm interested," Tim Rooney, the New York Giants' director of pro personnel, told the New York Daily News. "Athletically, he must be one of a kind. . . . The thing that intrigues you is his youth. You'd have time on your side. He's a long shot, a very long shot. But until you have more evidence, you don't want to say no. You have to be careful. That young, that big, that fast, he could be the exception."
Outside New Zealand, a lot of rugby players would love to see Lomu move to the NFL. "He's amazing, a freak," said Will Carling, the English captain. "The sooner he goes away, the better. I never want to see that man again."