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Introducing Nigeria’s 2023 NFL Drafts

NFL International Pathway is a program of the NFL aiming to provide foreigners with an opportunity to pursue careers in professional American football.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 8th May 2023

Nigerians have had a significant impact on the National Football League (NFL) in recent years, particularly in terms of player representation. While the history of Nigerians in the NFL dates back several decades, it is in the 21st century that Nigerian-born players have begun to make a significant impact.


One of the earliest Nigerian-born players in the NFL was Christian Okoye, who played for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1987 to 1992. Okoye, known as the “Nigerian Nightmare,” was a powerful running back who was named to two Pro Bowls during his career.


In the 21st century, several Nigerian-born players have made their mark in the NFL. Perhaps the most notable of these is Nnamdi Asomugha, who played for the Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Francisco 49ers during his career. Asomugha was a three-time Pro Bowl cornerback who was widely regarded as one of the best defensive players in the league during his prime.


Other notable Nigerian-born players in the NFL include:


  • Amobi Okoye: Okoye, who was born in Anambra State, Nigeria, played for the Houston Texans, Chicago Bears, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during his career. He was drafted in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft and played as a defensive tackle.



  • Uche Nwaneri: Nwaneri, who was born in Dallas, Texas to Nigerian parents, played as an offensive guard for the Jacksonville Jaguars from 2007 to 2014.



  • Femi Ayanbadejo: Ayanbadejo, who was born in Nigeria, played as a fullback for several NFL teams during his career, including the Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears.



  • Ezekiel Ansah: Ansah, who was born in Accra, Ghana to Ghanaian and Nigerian parents, played as a defensive end for the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks, and San Francisco 49ers during his career.





With the help of the International Pathway program, Nigerians have been able to find themselves a club in the NFL.


The NFL International Pathway is a program that was introduced by the National Football League (NFL) in 2017 to provide international athletes with an opportunity to pursue careers in professional American football. The program is designed to help develop players from outside the United States and provide them with a path to potentially play in the NFL.


Under the program, each of the four teams in the NFC South division (Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) is allowed to carry an additional international player on its practice squad each season. These players are exempt from being counted as part of the 10-man practice squad limit and can participate in all off-season workouts, training camps, and preseason games.


In addition to this, the NFL International Pathway program includes a series of regional combines that are held in countries around the world, including Australia, Germany, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. These combine allow international players to showcase their skills in front of NFL scouts and potentially earn a place on an NFL team.


The program has already produced several success stories, with players like Efe Obada (a defensive end from Nigeria who played for the Carolina Panthers), Jakob Johnson (a fullback from Germany who played for the New England Patriots), and Durval Queiroz Neto (a defensive tackle from Brazil who played for the Miami Dolphins) all making their way to the NFL via the International Pathway program.


Overall, the NFL International Pathway program is a promising initiative that has the potential to help bring more talented international players into the NFL and grow the sport’s global footprint.


2023 DARFT


The National Football League on the 4th of May, 2023 announced the names of eight players added to NFL rosters for the 2023 season through the NFL International Player Pathway (IPP) program. One Australian, one French, and six Nigerian players from the 2023 IPP have been allocated to NFL clubs, the highest number in a single year since the program’s inception.



Player Age Country Position NFC North Club
Roy Mbaeteka 23 Nigeria OL Chicago Bears
Patrick Murtagh 23 Australia TE Detroit Lions
Kenneth Odumegwu 22 Nigeria DL Green Bay Packers
Junior Aho 24 France DL Minnesota Vikings


Player Age Country Position AFC West Club
Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi 22 Nigeria DL Denver Broncos
Chukwuebuka Godrick 22 Nigeria OL Kansas City Chiefs
David Ebuka Agoha 21 Nigeria DL Las Vegas Raiders
Basil Chijioke Okoye 21 Nigeria DL Los Angeles Chargers


The six Nigerian players participated in the first NFL Africa talent camp in Ghana last year after being identified through Osi Umenyiora’s The Uprise program. After that, they received an invitation to the International Combine in London, where they were given a spot in the IPP program.


“To see these fantastic young Nigerian men achieve their dream to be on an NFL roster is incredibly exciting, and I am proud of how each one of them has worked incredibly hard to earn this moment,” said Umenyiora, a two-time Super Bowl champion who was born in the UK to Nigerian parents and who is spearheading football development efforts in Africa. “I cannot wait to see how they develop next season and in the years to come, and know that everyone in Nigeria will be following their progress with pride.”


Overall, Nigerians have made a significant impact on the NFL in recent years, with several players achieving success at the highest level of the sport. With the growing popularity of American football in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, we will likely see even more Nigerian-born players making their way to the NFL in the future.

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