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Discussing some of the best international player pathways into Americas greatest game!

Since 2017, the NFL has introduced the International Player Pathway program, in which overseas athletes ranging from all over Europe, South America and Asia, are given the opportunity to take their talents to the sport’s grandest stage in the US of A.

Having gone from strength to strength since its inaugural year, at the time of writing 19 of 32 NFL teams have signed players as a direct result of the program.

Some notable stories to specifically come out of the program from the UK, are former rugby player Christian Wade and Efe Obada, both of whom are currently signed with the Buffalo Bills; playing running back and defensive end, respectively.

The most notable success story to come out of the program is Efe Obada, who has made a name for himself in the league and is currently signed with the Buffalo Bills. Photo Credit: catcrave.com

Hopefully this will continue as the UK is once again well represented, with defensive end Adedayo Odeleye and linebacker Ayo Oyelola, looking to take the next step in their careers.

Originally born in Nigeria before moving to the UK when he was 9 years old, Adedayo Odeleye had the strength, size and speed for American football from a young age, but never played a snap of the sport until he attended Loughborough University at the age of 18.

The 6ft 5in defensive end took no time in becoming one of the nation’s top defensive players and was quickly on the NFL’s short list to compete for an international practice squad spot. With his enthusiasm for the sport and his drive to succeed, putting in the time to practice and improve his technique, he has set himself apart from others in such a short space of time.

Adedayo will now be looking to follow in his fellow Nigerian countryman, Efe Obada’s shoes in making it into the NFL.

Adedayo Odeleye has the size and speed to become a success in the league, combined with his passion for the game and desire to always improve. Photo Credit: americanfootballinternational.com 

Ayo Oyelola on the other hand, has traveled a slightly different path; choosing to attend Nottingham University to chase his dream… of becoming a lawyer, originally, after turning down offers to play soccer with Ebbsfleet United.

After stumbling upon a Saquon Barkley highlight video on YouTube however, Oyelola would turn his attention to American football, where he would be moved over to the defensive side of the ball. 

Playing a hybrid position of linebacker and defensive back, one which is becoming more and more common in today’s NFL, he soon picked up the necessary traits (quick feet, versatility and physical strength) for the 22 year old to be selected for the International Player program.

While neither Odeleye and Oyelola are guaranteed a spot in the league (out of the eleven participants in the program, only four will make it to the international practice squad roster, with the league randomly selecting one of the eight divisions for the players to sign with) they possess the natural talent to have a great chance at securing a practice squad spot and to continue to represent the UK in America’s Game.

Ayo Oyelola plays a hybrid role of line backer and defensive back, which should set him up well in a league which now looks at more athletic, versitile players at the position. Photo Credit: tibsnews.co.uk

The other nine athletes set to participate in the program are: Aaron Donkor (Germany), Taku Lee (Japan), Yoann Miangue (France), Leonel Misangumukini (Austria), Max Pircher (Italy), Sammis Reyes (Chile), Bernhard Seikovits (Austria), Lone Toailoa (New Zealand) and Alfredo Gutierrez (Mexico).

Know any other International Player Pathway success stories? Let me know in the comments.

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