The United States of America is gradually becoming another home of sports for Nigerians who are willing to improve their knowledge and development of the game regardless of their background. Nigerians, including both original immigrants who obtained American citizenship and their American-born descendants have transformed sports generally through their involvement in the National Football League (NFL) also known as American football.
Though not a popular sport in Nigeria, these players have made their presence felt through their achievements in the game in the U.S. and have continued their influx, since 2008, when the NFL draft recruited about 6 new Nigerian players who were phenomenal in college football.
Nigerianreporter.com showcases a few Nigerians of American descent who have taken American football to a higher level.
Ositadimma “Osi” Umenyiora
Born to a Nigerian parent in Golders Green, London on November 16, 1981, Ositadinma (meaning “from today on, things will be good”) began his sojourn to the NFL summit after a successful period with college football for Troy University and was drafted by the New York Giants in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft.
The Igbo born Superbowl winner who was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month after recording 18 tackles (10 solo), 7.0 sacks, and six forced fumbles in the Giants’ four October wins on November 5, 2010, retired from the game to join BBC Sports as a pundit for their NFL coverage.
Regarded as one of the best cornerbacks during his days in the NFL, Nnamdi’s creativity and versatility caught the eyes of coaches in the NFL after a sterling performance in the colors of the University of California, Berkeley.
Having played for the Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, Nnamdi who was born to a Nigerian Igbo parent in Lafayette, Louisiana, USA, was known for charity service as chairman for the Asomugha Foundation where off the field, education and community service became a major highlight of his career. Post career he is husband to American-actress Kerry Washington but shies away from the spotlight.
Akinola James “Akin” Ayodele
Big, strong and reliable, Akin, meaning “the brave and wealthy one” rose to stardom when he marshaled the defensive duties of the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, and Buffalo Bills with ease in the NFL. He was named NFL Extra Effort Award winner for the month of November in 2003 and also won the 2003 Blue Cross/Blue Shield Community Champion of the Year, where $2,500 was donated to the Muscular Dystrophy Association on his behalf.
Akin was drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the third round of the 2002 NFL Draft after playing a key role for Purdue, a college high-ranking college football team in the U.S.
Christian Emeka Okoye
Nicknamed “The Nigerian Nightmare,” Okoye was known for his powerful running style and ability to break tackles. Okoye’s six seasons in the NFL saw a league rushing title in 1989, two Pro Bowl appearances (1989, 1991), and three playoff appearances. He voluntarily ended his NFL career due to multiple injuries. He wore number 35.
Born in a royal family of Emure in Ekiti State, Ogunleye began his NFL career playing college football at Indiana University, where he was a four-year starter and also bagged a Bachelor of Arts in English Degree.
A former American football defensive end who played eleven seasons in the National Football League, Ogunleye signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted free agent in 2000 before enjoying time with the Chicago Bears and the Houston Texans.
Ovie Phillip Mughelli
Mughelli is an American football fullback for the Atlanta Falcons of the NFL. He signed a 6-year, $18 million contract with a $5 million signing bonus on March 2, 2007 with the Falcons. The contract was the largest given to a fullback in NFL history at the time.
Busari “B.J” Raji, Jr.
Despite not being ranked as a defensive player in the NFL, Raji has earned many praises for his dirty jobs in the middle of the pack for his team during his college football games at Boston College where he earned All-State, All-Conference, and All-County honors as a senior.
He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers with the ninth overall pick in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft and had a successful stint thereafter in his career.
A Nigerian-Canadian defensive end for the National Football League’s Chicago Bears, Idonije was signed out of the University of Manitoba. A draft pick of the now defunct Ottawa Renegades of the Canadian Football League, for whom he never played, Idonije spent the start of the 2003 season on the Cleveland Browns’ practice squad prior to his release in September. He was subsequently signed to the Bears’ practice squad for the final six weeks of the season.