Londoners Obi Melifonwu and Jermaine Eluemunor drafted by NFL

Obi Melifonwu and Jermaine Eluemunor are the latest British-born players in the NFL after being drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft in Philadelphia.

Safety Melifonwu was picked by the Oakland Raiders in Friday’s second round, while offensive tackle Eluemunor is now a member of the Baltimore Ravens after they chose him in the fifth round on Saturday.

In the Raiders, Melifonwu has joined one of the favorites to reach next year’s Super Bowl while fellow Londoner Eluemunor will return home to play when his new team faces the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley in September.

The pair become the fourth and fifth British-born players currently in the NFL joining defensive end Jack Crawford (Atlanta Falcons), offensive tackle Menelik Watson (Denver Broncos) and running back Jay Ajayi (Miami Dolphins).

Eluemunor, who grew up in Camden, only took up football after he was inspired by the first regular-season NFL game to be staged in London a decade ago.

Obi Melifonwu

Melifonwu, born in Archway’s Whittington Hospital to Nigerian parents, spent the first three years in London prior to moving to America.   “My heart is with Nigeria but London is my home,” he said prior to the draft.

He had been considered a fringe first-round prospect but was not selected on Thursday and had to wait until the 56th overall pick when the Raiders made their move. He earned first team All-AAC honours in his senior year with the University of Connecticut Huskies, recording a team-leading 118 tackles and four interceptions, and was one of the star performers at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February.

The Ravens, who face the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley on Sunday, September 24, made Eluemunor, an offensive lineman at Texas A & M, the 159th player selected in the draft, fulfilling the dream he has held since persuading his family to move to the United States so that he could play American football.

Jermaine Eluemunor

Speaking before the draft, Eluemunor recalled the moment he fell in love with the sport.

“I was flicking through the TV channels and I came upon the Dolphins and the Giants playing at Wembley. I loved the way they were hitting each other, the intensity.”

Many mock drafts had predicted Melifonwu would become the highest British-born player drafted in over four decades yet his name was called later than Manchester’s Menelik Watson in 2013, when the Raiders themselves picked him 42nd overall.

Melifonwu, 23, watched this year’s edition of the draft – the annual event where NFL teams select the best college graduates – at home in Massachusetts with friends and family, some of whom had flown over from London especially.

British-born players currently in the NFL:

PlayerBornCollegeDraftCurrent team
Jack Crawford, DELondonPenn StateOakland, Round 5 (158 overall) 2012Atlanta
Menelik Watson, T ManchesterFlorida StateOakland, Round 2 (42 overall) 2013Denver
Jay Ajayi, RB LondonBoise StateMiami, Round 5 (149 overall), 2015 Miami
Obi Melifonwu, S LondonConnecticut Oakland, Round 2 (56 overall), 2017Oakland
Jermaine Eluemunor Londonexas A & M Baltimore, Round 5 (159 overall) 2017Baltimore

 

 

 

Roger Kelly
Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.
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