African Players Who Made It to the NFL
There are some sports that African athletes have always dominated in, making the transition from playing in their local leagues to go and make it big in European, Asian or American arenas.
The most obvious of these is soccer, with almost every African nation boasting a player or two in Europe’s major leagues.
However, there are some sports which remain particularly difficult for African sportsmen and women to break into. The likes of tennis and golf are two that particularly come to mind, with geographical restrictions and funding issues holding back so many talented players.
Then there are those sports which barely even exist in Africa, such as American football or Lacrosse. Despite this there are some amazing athletes who are somehow finding their way in the former, occasionally transferring their rugby skills over into gridiron to impress NFL scouts.
Here are just some of the African players who managed to make it into the top tier of American football.
Christian Emeka Okoye
When your nickname is The Nigerian Nightmare there is always pressure on you to bring the heat and that is exactly what Christian Emeka Okoye did for the Kansas City Chiefs. Using his experience as an Olympic level sprinter, he became the AFC’s offensive player of the year in 1989.
Unlike the next two names on this list The Nightmare never looked back, writing himself into Kansas sporting history having played a pivotal role in a total of six seasons.
It is just a shame he could not stick around long enough to be able to work with Patrick Mahomes, because the two of them would have made mincemeat of the new season’s NFL odds lines and defensive lines.
Starting life in South Africa as a rugby player of some repute, Adongo was eventually picked up by the Indianapolis Colts, who turned him into a line-backer; he would then play in this position for most of his short NFL career.
Injuries and off-field distractions eventually derailed his career and, after never having made a tackle for the first team, he was released by the franchise at the end of 2015.
Unfortunately, his is a story of squandered talent, with his imposing physical abilities largely being wasted away from the spotlight in practice and reserve squads.
A Kenyan export with a similar career trajectory to Adongo is Reese Odhiambo, who moved to the US when he was young and went on to play for the Seahawks, Colts, Falcons and Cardinals, although he only ever made sixteen appearances in NFL games as an offensive guard.
Whereas Adongo suffered from repeated bicep strains, Aghiambo’s Achilles’ heel was always his hands, an issue that dogged him for much of his time in the NFL.
It could easily be argued that his most successful time as an American football player was during his college years, when he played for Boise State.
Despite being a third round draft pick back in 2016, his career never took off quite as he would have liked and he now languishes on the free agent list.
Of course, it would be wrong to think that there are no active African NFL players out there at the moment, and Ezekiel Ansah is one established talent who shows no signs of letting up any time soon.
Whereas many American football players transition over from the likes of basketball, rugby or athletics, Ansah’s first sporting love was soccer, which he played until it became clear that his true talents lay elsewhere.
He now plays at defensive end for the exciting Seattle Seahawks, having previously done a five-year stint with the Detroit Lions.
With Seattle consistently making the playoffs, Ansah is Ghana’s best chance of getting its first Super Bowl winner.