A Nigerian athlete is playing American football at the highest level of the sport — after discovering it just about five years ago. Denver Broncos defensive tackle Haggai Ndubuisi only put football on his radar at the age of 18. The resident of Lagos, Nigeria, became interested in the game after watching a YouTube video compilation of devastating NFL hits, according to The Washington Post. The fan of American football would line up his friends in fields to practice the game — even without knowing its complex rules. At times, Ndubuisi would practice his football skills alone. The sport’s popularity pales in comparison to that of the main football — soccer — in his home country. Ndubuisi’s break in the American football world came through an NFL program designed to find talent outside the borders of the United States. He was discovered in his native country through the International Player Pathway Program (IPPP), which is led by former NFL player Osi Umenyiora, 41, who won two Super Bowls with the New York Giants. Ndubuisi spoke of his affinity for the sport after a practice at the Broncos’ training camp this week, according to the Post. “I was just enjoying it. Like … this is what I want to do,” he said. Ndubuisi is a long shot to make the Broncos’ 53-man roster this season, but as a member of the IPPP, he can play on the team’s practice squad via a roster exemption if he doesn’t earn a spot on the regular roster. Ndubuisi competed for the Arizona Cardinals in training camp in 2022 as an offensive lineman, according to the Post. He did not play in the regular season. The 6-foot-7, 323-pound Ndubuisi described being allocated to the Broncos this year under the program as a “a dream come true and also a sign of hope that the best is yet to come” after joining the team in May, according to the Broncos. He’s switching to the other side of the ball for Denver, and he recorded two tackles in his defensive debut, against the Cardinals in a preseason game last Friday. Ndubuisi is one of four African players — all Nigerian — signed to an NFL team for the 2023 season.
Another defensive lineman, Basil “CJ” Okoye of the Los Angeles Chargers, earned a sack during a preseason game Saturday against the Los Angeles Rams. Okoye disclosed that he didn’t know he had recorded a sack until after the game — his first organized gridiron contest ever, according to the NFL. “Sometimes it hits me, ‘You’re in the States with the Chargers in the NFL. You need to make the most out of it,'” Okoye said of his young career. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
NFL International Pathway 2023 AFC WestChiefs – Chu Godrick Chargers – Basil Okoye Broncos – Haggai Ndubuisi Raiders – David Agoha pic.twitter.com/lsvBBFlR0t — The Euro Agent (@euroagent) May 4, 2023