Monterrey, Mexico genial hosts of second NFL International Combine

Just 140 miles south of the US border, the NFL planted even more seeds as the second International Combine of the year took place in Monterrey, Mexico this past weekend.

The October 23rd event was hosted by Monterrey Tech University, home of the powerhouse Borregas, one of Mexico’s best college football teams. This was the second international combine put on by the NFL this year as London played host to many European hopefuls earlier this month.

Under the watchful eyes of scouts, media, and NFL personalities, 13 of Latin America’s best football players went through a litany of athletic tests and football drills in order to be evaluated. Eleven of the 13 NFL hopefuls were standouts in ONEFA (Organización Nacional Estudiantil de Fútbol Americano) Mexico’s college football league. Arturo Olive, the General Director of NFL Mexico is thrilled to be working with the college league that features some of the country’s best young talents:

“We appreciate the collaboration and support of ONEFA headed by Dr. Juan Bladé, his governing body and all the higher education institutions grouped in this organization, who provided us with all the facilities to hold this event in Mexico.”

Players enter the field at the NFL International Combine in Mexico Photo Credit Sine Studios

These players, among others, are competing for a chance to be selected as part of the NFL International Pathway Program.  Instituted in 2017, the program aims to provide elite international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, improve their skills, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster.

Currently, the NFL IPP program has helped four Latin American athletes make their way onto NFL teams. Isaac Alarcón (Dallas Cowboys) and Alfredo Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers) of Mexico, along with Chilean Sammis Reyes (Washington Football Team) and Brazilian Durval Queiroz Neto (Miami Dolphins), are all playing key roles on their respective NFL teams.

Axel Montini Photo Credit Sine Studios

For the 11 players with experience playing in Mexico, having the NFL evaluation on familiar ground was a special feeling. Representing the competitive college football scene, Mexico’s ONEFA helped the football-crazed country feature some of its brightest young stars. Juan Alamillo of the Autonomous University of Coahuila Lobos commented on what the combine could mean for the future of football in Latin America.

“It feels like a goal for older generations who didn’t have the opportunity to be able to perform in front of NFL scouts, our main goal is to pave the way for younger generations of Latin Americans who want that want to be able to provide a future on and off the field I was on a dream being in the field today wearing the shield of the NFL and having guys outside from Mexico just to see us perform it and see our work on the field it’s anything possible for any Latin American.”

Brazilian Leandro Santos Photo Credit: Sine Studios

Outside of Mexico, three Brazilians ventured north to chase their NFL dreams. Former CFL Global Draft pick Ryan Gomez along with European League of Football lineman Pollys Junio Sacramento made the trip up. However, the mystery player in the group was Leandro Santos. Santos is an intriguing 6’6″ lineman with a basketball background. The defensive end racked up two sacks a game in only his second season of football. The Remo Lions product commented on the once-in-a-lifetime experience representing his country in front of NFL scouts:

“The feeling of being able to represent my country at the NFL combine was amazing, I did my best to represent those who believe in me, I thank God for giving me this opportunity in life.”

Hector Zepada Photo Credit: Sine Studios

Scouts recognized a few standouts from the shortlist of Latin American players. The aforementioned Brazilian linemen Leandro Santos was hard to miss, as one of the biggest bodies at the combine. Meanwhile, Monterrey Borregas lineman Hector Zepada was another big body who performed well in tests and drills. Zepada was teammates with NFL IPP alumni Isaac Alarcón (Dallas Cowboys) and Alfredo Gutierrez (San Francisco 49ers) in college and hopes to follow them to the big leagues.

As far as testing went, it was another big man who had the best bench press reps as University of the Valley of Mexico guard Rodrigo Jurado showed off impressive upper body strength.

Juan Alamillo Photo Credit: Sine Studios

Juan Alamillo and former CFL Global Draft pick Ryan Gomez impressed scouts with the two fastest 40-yard dashes at the combine. Gomez’s blazing speed got him the attention of the Ottawa Redblacks earlier this year before being released in May. However, Alamillo was the surprise of the day recording not only an impressive 40-yard dash, but also the combines top broad jump and vertical. The 6’1 200 lb defensive back stole the show with his explosiveness and smooth hips.

Overall, the combine was seen by players and coaches as a crucial stepping stone for Latin American football. A trail blazed by previous gridiron standouts from south of the US border has seemed to catch the attention of the NFL’s talent evaluators bringing them down to sunny Monterrey. Maximo Gonzales, a former Mexican IPP player who is now working with the program, commented on the events collective array of talent while hinting at the promising players in Mexico’s pipeline:

“It was a good event with some of the best guys in México, even though some of the best players could not come to the combine because they have not finished college yet. But in general, it was a good event for the IPP but more so for México. Mexican football and going to have more motivation for the next generations.”

Watch the highlights of the combine here: (Via NFL Mexico)

Alex is a former professional American football player who is now studying in London. His goal writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and players and sharing different football