London NFL International Combine: Top performers on defense

Over two days at the beginning of this week the NFL International Pathway Program (IPP) met in London for its annual combine.

Forty-four athletes from over 14 different countries descended upon Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London and were put through rigorous testing in a bid to make it to the next stage of the IPP at the LeCharles Bentley training facility in Arizona next year.

Of the 44 athletes there were a number of standouts on both sides of the ball. As part of AFI’s ongoing coverage of the IPP we have broken down the top five performers on both offense and defense.

Kenneth Odumegwu (Nigeria) – DL

Standing at 6’5 and weighing 265 pounds with minimal body fat and lots of muscles, Kenneth Odumegwu is already an intriguing prospect.

His unofficial 4.8 40-yard dash, 33.5 inch vertical and an impressive command of his body will likely give him a pass to Arizona without ever playing a snap of football.

Defensive lineman Tim Haenni, of Switzerland, during the International Player Combine. Via NFL UK

Emmanuel Falola (United Kingdom) – LB

Linebacker is a tough position to break into due to the exposure to football needed. But Emmanuel Falola, a participant in last year’s IPP combine, has added another year of football to his resume and also appears to be moving with quickness and fluidity.

Ebuka Emmanuel Nzekwe (Nigeria) – DB

Manny Nzekwe recorded the combine’s highest vertical jump with an unofficial 40 inches. This is unsurprising considering Educational Basketball found him on Instagram showcasing acrobatic dunks.

Nzekwe was carrying a groin injury and still showed fluid hips and blazing straight line speed. The IPP would be missing out if they failed to invite the 23-year old Nzekwe to Arizona.

Kevin Forte (France) – DB

Forte is probably the best player now among all the athletes. He boasts arguably the most experience at the combine playing for a plethora of teams across Europe, most recently the European League of Football finalists, the Hamburg Sea Devils.

This experience showed in the Frenchman who appeared to be a seasoned pro in every single drill. Scouts will have seen the closest thing to an American defensive back in Forte and for that reason may invite him to Arizona

Ifeanyi Paul Anine (Nigeria) – DB

Ifeanyi Anine put up an NFL combine-like performance running an unofficial 4.5 flat and a 38 inch vertical. Doing this in a 6’2 frame weighing 200lbs makes him a prototype NFL safety.

As with all the Up Rise Academy players, his lack of playing experience will actually go in his favor as scouts evaluate little outside of his raw ability – which is anything but lacking.

Tim Haenni (Switzerland) – DL

As one of the main components of the Hamburg Sea Devils defense this year, Tim Haenni caused havoc in one of the best football leagues outside of North America

He is rumored to have run a 4.8 40-yard dash in a 6’4 in a 280lbs frame. If the young Swiss-born defensive tackle managed this, he is almost certainly getting an invite just on that merit alone.

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.