NFL International Player Pathway spotlight: Ayo Oyelola, LB, UK

The 2022 NFL’s International Pathway Program has extended invitations to 13 athletes vying for a shot at their pro football dreams. For young Brit Ayo Oyelola, this year’s invitation comes as a precious second chance.

Oyelola, 23, was invited to train at IMG Academy last year as part of the NFL’s IPP program. However, after the draft teams passed on the inexperienced defender. Rather than sulking at the rejection, Oyelola got the next best experience, playing professionally in the Canadian Football League. The athletic linebacker is hoping that a year in the world’s second professional league and a rare second chance in the program will land him a spot in the NFL this fall.

The 5’11,” 215-pound linebacker played in one game this season while spending most of the year on the Grey Cup champions Winnipeg Blue Bombers practice roster.  The Essex native came to the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers by way of the 2021 CFL Global Draft, where he was chosen 22nd overall. The former Nottingham University Law student was excited to get on the field in his limited action in the CFL:

“It was an amazing experience, I felt really blessed. As I was out on the field, all I could think about was, that I was doing it for all the players in Europe grinding for a dream most people think is impossible. That’s what was giving me energy. This is just the beginning. I aim to go a lot higher and keep on grinding.”

Instituted in 2017, the NFL International Player Pathway Program aims to give elite international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, improve their skills, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster.

So far, the program has helped players such as Jordan Mailata (Philadelphia Eagles/Australia), Sammis Reyes (Washington Football Team/Chile), and Jakob Johnson (New England Patriots/Germany) earn roster spots in the NFL.

Oyelola initially caught the attention of NFL scouts as a standout player for Nottingham University in the UK’s college football ranks. The Grey Cup Champion had never played American football before arriving at University. The NFL prospect discovered the game by finding New York Giants Saquan Barkley highlights on YouTube and eventually joining his university club team. Prior to strapping up the pads, Oyelola played soccer, rugby, and ran track.

Read more about Oyelola’s football unique journey here

Watch Oyelola’s University highlights 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