11 athletes selected to the 2023 NFL International Player Pathway Program

The NFL has officially named 11 athletes to the next stage of the International Player Pathway Program (IPP) in the US early next year.

The selection comes after the IPP Combine held in London last month which saw over forty athletes from around the globe showcase their size and athleticism.

That extensive list has now been whittled down to just 11 and features athletes from five different countries: Australia, Germany, Mexico, Nigeria and New Zealand. Of those 11 athletes, six were involved in Osi Umenyiora’s NFL Africa camp in Ghana or the Up Rise Academy operating out of Lagos, Nigeria.

The selectees are expected to travel to the US in early Spring and attend a training facility in preparation for a pro-day just before the NFL Draft in 2023. LeCharles Bentley’s academy in Arizona, which was used last year, is rumored to be the training facility again this year.

Following the draft, four of the 11 will each be assigned to an individual team within a division and have three years of practice-squad eligibility that won’t count against the team’s practice squad roster cap.

Two of the more interesting names on the list are Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi and Kehinde Hassan Oginni who both attended the IPP Combine in London last year. Both were selected to attend the final stage of the IPP program but were signed by NFL teams prior to its completion. Hassan, signed by the Kansas City Chiefs, and Ndubuisi, signed by the Arizona Cardinals, were both cut prior to the regular season.

Basil ‘CJ’ Okoye OL – Nigeria

Nicknamed ‘CJ’, Basil Okoye stands at an imposing 6 ’6″ and weighs 315 pounds. The 20-year-old was one of the most highly anticipated prospects at this year’s combine and was recognised as the top offensive player of Osi Umenyiora’s NFL Africa camp in Ghana back in March

Jason ‘Chu’ Godrick OL – Nigeria

The Nigerian lineman turned heads as soon as he walked into the stadium. Standing at 6’5″ and a lean 295 pounds, Jason passes the eye test despite having no real competitive football experience. Like all the Up Rise Academy men, the 21-year-old comes from a basketball background but was encouraged to try football by his trainers at Educational Basketball.

Kenneth Odumegwu DL – Nigeria

Kenneth came in at 6 ‘5″ and 265 pounds with minimal body fat and lots of muscles. His unofficial 4.8 40-yard dash, 33.5 inch vertical and impressive command of his body made him an intriguing prospect for scouts who undoubtedly saw his high ceiling.

Patrick Murtagh WR/TE – Australia

A late addition to the London combine, the 6 ‘5″, 220 pound Murtagh has been an Aussie Rules player last three years playing for the Gold Coast Suns. The 22-year-old slender athlete is a Gold Coast Suns Academy graduate and state decathlon champion bringing a strong track background to his game.

Talitiga Lachlan Amosa DL – Australia

The second Aussie on this list was one of three players invited to London with NCAA experience. The 6 ‘7, 270 pounder played for New Mexico Military Institute (Junior College), East Los Angeles Community College (Junior College) and finally Texas A&M Commerce (NCAA, DII). This past summer he was an impact player for the Berlin Rebels in the German Football League making 28 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and two sacks.

Etuale Junior Vinny Lui DL – New Zealand

Vinny Lui is an athletic big body who has played rugby for several years. In 2019, Vinny Lui was named to New Zealand’s junior national rugby team which is a huge accolade considering the size of the sport in the country. He last suited up for the Parramatta Eels junior club, one of the top rugby programs in the country.

Haggai Chisom Ndubisi OL – Nigeria

The 6 ’9, 290-pound offensive lineman is one of three players back in the program taking another crack at their NFL dreams. The young Nigerian was signed by the Arizona Cardinals back in April of this year and was with the team until being released in mid-August. 

Ndubisi first appeared on the scene in Abuja, Nigeria, at The Up Rise Academy after being invited by former NBA star Ejike Ugboaja. Ugboaja runs The Up Rise in tandem with Super Bowl winning and two-time Pro Bowler Osi Umenyiora through his outreach program, the Ejike Foundation.

Ndubuisi immediately shone in Abuja, not only due to his sheer size and strength but also his quick feet and surprising athleticism for a big man. The 21-year-old began his football career in 2017 when he was noticed by American coaches at a basketball all-star game in Lagos, Nigeria.

Kehinde Oginni Hassan DL – Nigeria

Another player discovered by NFL Africa figure Osi Umenyiora is Kehinde Oginni Hassan who is back in the NFL IPP program after spending last year chasing his dream. Following his pro-day at Arizona State, Hassan was signed by Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs. There, the 6 ’7 athlete made the challenging transition from tight end to defensive end. The young Nigerian made one appearance in the preseason for the Chiefs but was released before the regular season. 

Unsurprisingly, Hassan comes from a basketball background and began his football journey in Abuja, Nigeria at an Ejike Foundation sports camp. Hassan, initially thinking he was too lanky to play football, was convinced by the American coaches to pursue a career in the game.

Marlon Werthmann OL – Germany

Werthmann is a product of one of Germany’s top youth programs in the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns. The 6 ‘4, 290-pound, 20-year-old is known as a workout warrior bench pressing over 400 pounds and deadlifting over 600 pounds. He was the starting guard for the undefeated Unicorns in the German Football League this year.

Hector Zepada OL – Mexico

Mexico’s Hector Zepada’s technique stood out in drills. He brings excellent football experience from his country’s developed college football system. The 6 ‘4, 290-pound lineman spent last season training with the NFL IPP program but was not allocated to a team.

Zepada has played for one of Mexico’s top college programs in powerhouse Monterrey Tech. In the Borregos program, he showed great versatility starting at guard and tackle for what many call ‘the Alabama’ of Mexico’s college football system. At one point, Zepada played next to current Dallas Cowboy Isaac Alarcon early in his college career.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.