NFL International Player Pathway spotlight: Basil ‘CJ’ Chijioke Okoye, OL, Nigeria

Out of this year’s class of 11 NFL IPP players, maybe no athlete has the athletic potential of Nigeria’s Basil Chijioke Okoye. Nicknamed ‘CJ’, the massive talent was discovered at the NFL Africa Camp this spring, as his quick feet, long arms, and booming laugh had coaches and former NFL players such as Osi Umenyiora, Kwitty Paye, and Maurice Jones-Drew turning their heads.

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 (Chicago Bears/Chile), and Jakob Johnson (New England Patriots/Germany) earn roster spots in the NFL.

Okoye, a 6’6″ 315 pound offensive lineman was one of the most highly anticipated prospects at this year’s NFL International Player Pathway combine. The 20-year-old was recognized as the top offensive player of the Osi Umenyiora’s NFL Africa Camp in Ghana back in March. The Uprise Academy product recorded a 34.5-inch vertical jump in the combine-drills portion. The general consensus is that he is the most NFL-ready player of the group from Ghana.

Basil ‘CJ’ Chijioke Okoye (Nigeria) shows off his powerful punch Photo: NFL UK

A former high level basketball player in Nigeria, ‘CJ’ showed a rare acceleration, quick feet, and surprisingly good technique for a player with little football experience. Like many of his countrymen, he has never played an official game of football before, however, his athletic ceiling was among the highest of any athlete at the London combine.

The combine standout was one of 12 Nigerian athletes invited to the NFL’s International scouting combine. Most of these athletes were former basketball or soccer players discovered and trained by programs such as Uprise Academy and Educational Basketball. Now, CJ and five of countrymen will travel to the in the United States and train for a chance at the pro’s.

CJ could be the next lineman from Nigeria to make the jump into the NFL following the footsteps of Chigbo Roy Mbaeteka who spent the 2022 NFL pre-season with the New York Giants and is still hoping to get back into the NFL. The former basketball player certainly has one of the highest athletic ceilings of any one of this year NFL IPP prospects.

Alex is a former NCAA and semi-pro American football player who is now located in London, where he works in digital marketing. His goal in writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and