NFL International London Combine Invites: Defensive Players

Earlier this month, the NFL announced 44 athletes invited to an international combine at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, England.

These players, among others, are competing for a chance to be selected as part of the NFL International Player 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.

The International Combine is the first step in the process towards participation in the program that has helped players such as Efe Obada (Buffalo Bills/UK), Jordan Mailata (Philadelphia Eagles/Australia), Sammis Reyes (Washington Football Team/Chile), and Jakob Johnson (New England Patriots/Germany) earn roster spots in the NFL.

Overall, 14 athletes from the United Kingdom were invited, followed closely by 10 Germans. Other nations also represented include Belgium, France, Nigeria, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Japan.

In order to analyze this large list of NFL hopefuls, we will be looking at the players listed at defensive positions in today’s piece.

Positionally, the invitees include 14 defensive linemen, six linebackers, and three defensive backs.

All measurements are approximate*

Click here for the offensive list of combine invites

Yoann Miangue at the 2021 NFL IPP Photo: Lemar Griffin NFL

Yoan Miangue (France) DL 6’6 280 lbs

The 23-year-old Frenchmen was part of the NFL IPP program last year and is looking to return in 2022 to chase his NFL dreams once again. Miangue is a former European and junior Olympic Taekwondo champion who has played only a very limited amount of football.  However, he has suited up for the French National Team, Paris’s Flash La Courneuve, and most recently the Dresden Monarchs of the German Football League. The blackbelt recently won the German Bowl, making four tackles, two tackles for a loss, and a sack in the championship game. The clutch performance helped the Dresden Monarchs capture their first title in the team’s history.

Read more about Yoann Miangue here:

Enzo Mensah (Italy) LB 6’3 230 lbs

Mensah is the lone Italian to make the invite list. The young linebacker was the leading tackler for the Milano Seamen racking up 36 tackles and nine tackles for a loss in only seven games. The 23 year old is also a member of the Italian national team. Mensah stood out in international play, making double-digit tackles against the Swarco Raiders of Austria.

Adedayo Odeleye at the 2021 NFL IPP Photo: Sky Sports

Adedayo Odeleye (UK) DL 6’5 270 lbs

Odeleye was another player who was part of the NFL IPP program in 2021. After not being picked up by a pro team this spring, the Loughborough University alum joined the Berlin Thunder of the European League of Football this past summer. In eight games in Germany’s capital, the Brit used his size and speed well putting up seven sacks and earning an All-Star bid.

Read more about Adedayo Odeleye here

Janos Zilai (Hungary) LB 6’3 230 lbs

Zilai is a key fixture for the Hungarian powerhouse Fehervar Enthroners. Zailai and the Enthroners finished as runner-ups this season in the Hungarian Football League after winning the title in 2019. The 23-year-old linebacker is also a standout for the Hungarian National team.

Chad Walrond (UK) DB 5’11 195 lbs

Walrond is one of 14 Brits to be invited to the London NFL Combine. The 22-year old played for the Hertfordshire Hurricanes and London Blitz in his home country, before making the jump to the German Football League this summer. Once in Germany, Walrond made 24 tackles and six pass breakups as the Allgäu Comets starting safety and kick returner.

Read more about Chad Walrond’s season in Germany here:

Vienna Vikings DE Leon Balogh Photo: Andreas Bischof.

Leon Balogh (Austria) DL 6’3 250 lbs

Balogh is the third Vienna Vikings player to garner NFL IPP interest. Balogh is a quick and long-armed defensive end who won Austria’s defensive player of the year in 2021 while putting up 11 sacks in eight games. The 25-year-old has been one of the Austrian Football League’s best defenders for the past few years leading the league in sacks for three consecutive seasons.

Maceo Beard (France) DB 6’2 200 lbs

Beard is a young defensive back who began playing football with the Kangerous Pessac in France’s second division.  The 20-year-old quickly caught the attention of national team coaches earning a spot wearing blue and white. In 2021, Beard made 14 tackles, two interceptions, and six pass breakups, playing in eight games for the Potsdam Royals in the German Football League. Beard is one of four Potsdam Royals players invited to the combine.

Emmanuel Falola (UK) LB 6’2 230 lbs

Falola is a physical linebacker who shined this summer while playing for the Kent Exiles. The 23-year-old linebacker was a University League All-Star selection in 2019 as a member of the Coventry University Jets. Falola started playing football at the age of 19, after playing basketball and rugby as a teenager.

Jan-Phillip Bombek 58 Photo: Imago Images

Jan Phillip Bombek (Germany) DL 6’3 260 lbs

Bombek is one of a few players on this list with NCAA experience. The Hamburg native suited up for the Colorado State Rams (NCAA D1) making three and a half sacks in his two seasons there. This past summer, Bombek starred for his hometown Hamburg Sea Devils in the European League of Football. In his return to European play, the 24-year-old dominated, racking up 11 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss in only seven games.

Aslan Zetterberg (Sweden) DL 6’1 285 lbs

Zetterberg also has experience playing college football in the United States, suiting up for the powerhouse junior college program San Francisco City College and then moving on to Lake Erie College (NCAA D2). This past summer, the Swede also returned to Europe and had 10 sacks for the Leipzig Kings in eastern Germany.

Rachael Zistler (Germany) DL 6’4 290 lbs

Zistler hopes to follow former teammate David Bada from the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns to the NFL on Sunday afternoons. The defensive tackle made 25 tackles and five tackles for a loss in nine games with one of Germany’s best teams this summer. The 25-year-old has been a key part of the Unicorn’s defensive line rotation for the past two seasons, en route to consecutive title game appearances.

Stuttgart Surge DB Marcel Dabo Photo: Murat Aksu

Marcel Dabo (Germany) DB 5’11 210 lbs

Dabo was one of the bright spots for the Stuttgart Surge in the European League of Football. The 21-year-old was rumored to have run a 4.45 40-yard dash while attending a college camp in 2019. This season, the speedy defensive back put up 22 tackles and one interception while playing cornerback and kick returner for the Surge. Dabo’s excellent play earned him a spot on the 2021 ELF All-Star team and the league’s defensive rookie of the year award.

Jai-Albert Jackson (UK) DL 6’4 250 lbs

Dabos teammate in Stuttgart, Jai-Albert Jackson also joins the invite list. Before heading to southwest Germany, Jackson was a defensive captain of the Hertfordshire Cheetahs in the UK. The 25-year old also played for the London Blitz and University of Hertfordshire Hurricanes before joining the European League of Football.

Boris Degas (France) DL 6’3 250 lbs

The French national team defensive lineman most recently suited up for the Lions de Bordeaux. The 21-year old also brings experience from Quebec’s Cegep football scene suiting up for the CDC Cougars.

Filip Zacok Photo: Seinajoki Crocodiles

Filip Zacok (Finland) DL 6’4 290 lbs

Zacok played two seasons of college football for the Indiana State Sycamores (NCAA D1 FCS), totaling three sacks and 31 tackles during his time in the midwest. This year, Zacok returned to his hometown of Seinäjoki, Finland playing for the Crocodiles. In his homecoming, the Slovakian-born Finnish citizen made 10 tackles for a loss and four sacks in eight games in Finland’s top league.

Read more about Filip Zacok here

Lukas Ruoss (Switzerland) LB 6’3 230 lbs

The lone Swiss player on the list spent this summer playing for the Potsdam Royals, making 42 tackles, four sacks, and 13 tackles for a loss. The 26-year-old linebacker played for Bemidji State University (NCAA D2) after two years of junior college football in California. In his senior year with the Beavers, Ruoss was made 53 tackles, one and a half sacks, and one interception.

Lance Leota (New Zealand) DL 6’1 290 lbs

Leota also played this last season in the European League of Football earning an All-Star nod while playing for the Leipzig Kings. The Kiwi previously played junior college football at Grossmont College in California before returning home to take care of his family.

Dacia Vienna Vikings Leonel Leo Misangumukini Photo: Hannes Jirgal

Leonel Misangumkini (Austria) DL 6’5 240 lbs

Misangumkini is one of three combine invites who were part of the NFL IPP program in 2021. Unfortunately, the defensive end suffered an injury last time, all but ending his chances of being allocated to an NFL team. The Dacia Vienna Vikings product hopes to become the third Austrian in the NFL and follow former teammate Bernard Seikovits to the professional ranks. Misangumkini flashed speed and athleticism off the edge while playing with Vienna in 2019 & 2020.

Read more about Leonel Misangumkini here: 

Flamur Simon (Germany) LB/DL 6’5 250 lbs

Simon is the second Dusseldorf Panther on this list. The tall linebacker put up 34 tackles, eight sacks, 12 tackles for a loss, and one pick-six in nine games this summer. The 21-year olds rare combination of size and speed has impressed coaches far and wide. Simon was offered a scholarship in early 2020 from the University of Massachusets (NCAA D1) along with receiving interest from other college programs. The massive defender is rumored to run a sub 4.7 40 yard dash.

Shawn Tuione (New Zealand) DL 6’4 275 lbs

Tuione is the second Kiwi defensive lineman on the list. The New Zealander is a former member of the Te Papapa Rugby club in his home country. The rubgy forward is one of three players on the list without formal American football experience. The 23-year-old can be described as an all-around athlete playing volleyball, basketball, rugby and running track throughout his athletic career.

Wael Nasri at the ELF All-Star game Photo: Berlin Thunder

Wael Nasri (France) LB 5’11 230 lbs

Nasri is coming off of an impressive season leading the European League of Football with 141 tackles. As a member of the Berlin Thunder Nasri was named as one of the league nominees for defensive player of the year. The 23-year-old also brings experience from playing college football in Canada, suiting up for the Concordia University Stingers (USports), and playing at Quebec’s Cegep level.

Arthur Mbahin (UK) DL 6’5 265 lbs

Mbahin is another long-armed British defensive lineman on this list who most recently suited up for the Tamworth Pheonix and Coventry University Jets. The 23-year-old has only been playing American football for just over two years. Mbahin ran track in his youth before finding his way to the gridiron.

With a long list of talented athletes attending the London NFL International combine, global fans will be eager to see which players will be chosen for the NFL’s International Pathway Program. These players are hoping to follow the footsteps of former International Pathway players turned solidified pros such as Efe Obada, Jordan Mailata, and Jakob Johnson.

Read the full list of combine invites here:

Read the list of offensive invites here:

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