France’s Yoann Miangue: Kicking at the NFL’s door

Taekwondo is a sport that requires athleticism, strength, strategy, quick hands and feet, and of course tenacity.

Not so different from playing defensive line. France’s contribution to this year’s NFL International Player Pathway program, Yoann Miangue, possesses all those qualities and is also a skilled practitioner of taekwondo.

In fact, Miangue was a taekwondo prodigy. The 22-year-old Toulouse, France native represented France as a member of the French national Taekwondo team for many years, traveling around the globe, competing in tournaments from Taiwan to Warsaw. The tall (6’6″) lean Miangue won the 2014 Summer Youth Olympics gold medal in Nanjing, China. Three years later, Miangue won the French national Taekwondo title and in 2018 he captured the bronze at the 2018 Mediterranean Games.

Winning the gold was his proudest moment on the mat:

“Definitely when I won the Youth Olympic Games in China in 2014 and it stays my proudest moment ever ”

But, in 2018 Miangue competed in his final taekwondo match. To the surprise of many, the newly-crowned national champion decided to move on from the sport. Miangue and his mother had bonded deeply over the Korean martial art and the future youth Olympian had been practicing since he was only four years old. However, in 2018 his mother passed away suddenly and that brought and abrupt end to his taekwondo.

“The loss of my mom in 2018 made me take the decision to stop my taekwondo career because she was carrying on that project with me so without her it was no longer possible for me to continue.”

Without taekwondo, the 22-year-old athlete decided to try the beautiful game of American football. The complex foreign game was tough but the challenge of learning a new sport appealed to Miangue.

“The transition from taekwondo to football was pretty hard because it’s two completely different discipline and I’ve been practicing taekwondo since the age of 4. I also had to learn new rules, new vocabulary and game strategy.”

So began his transition from medal-winning martial artist into NFL prospect. He hit the weights and the slender young Olympian underwent a transformation, turning into a massive 6’6′, 270 pound defensive lineman. His quick hands, size, and athleticism made it relatively easy for him to transition to the gridiron. So, not long after leaving the taekwondo mat, Miangue was representing France again, this time with his hand in the dirt. Miangue had earned a spot on the French national team for their 2019 matchup against Serbia after playing football for only a few months.

“To be honest when I started playing football it was just for fun. But after my first selection in the French national team in October 2019 it became more serious, but I felt like it was too late for me to go to any college football because I was already 21 and I only had a few months of experience in football.”

Miangue excelled at football playing for the La Courneuve Flash

Despite his young age and extremely limited football experience, the former martial artist prodigy has a tremendous upside. His size and the raw athleticism he showed as a Taekwondo athlete make him a very intriguing prospect.  This untapped potential caught the eyes of the NFL’s international scouts. After only one year of football with the Flash de la Courneuve, one of the country’s premier clubs outside of Paris, Miangue was selected for the NFL International Player Pathway Program. The former Olympian stayed motivated by his new dream of reaching the NFL.

“I had the chance to be contacted in April 2020 by  the Head of Football Development who expressed interest in considering me as a potential participant in the program of 2021.  Since that moment I started a hard physical preparation with MG Performance based in Paris, until the workout in front of the men of the IPP to show my skills and prove that I’m made for the program.

The Toulouse native is looking forward to representing France as part of the NFL International Player Pathway program.

This isn’t Miangue’s first time representing France, and it likely won’t be the last.

“It feels incredible to represent my country because I’ve always represented France during my taekwondo career and I am part of the French national football team. I am also the second French athlete after Anthony Dablé to integrate the IPP. After only a year as an American football player I’m honored to be part of this program and I’m thankful to have such a big opportunity to make in the NFL.”

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 stories from across the globe.