NFL International Player Pathway spotlight: Chigbo Roy Mbaeteka, OL, Nigeria

Chigbo Roy Mbaeteka is one of three Nigerians to make it to the final stage of the NFL’s International Player Pathway program (IPP).

Roy was born in Nigeria’s Anambra state in a city called Onitsha but moved to Benin City, Edo state, in the south of the country at a young age.

Standing at 6’8″, Roy naturally fell into basketball with his imposing frame and athleticism. He pursued the sport in his home city of Benin before taking it to the bigger cities in Nigeria in the hope of finding a path to the pros.

In 2018, the then 17-year-old Roy, attended a basketball camp in Lagos, Nigeria, held by former NBA (Cleveland Cavaliers) and national team (Nigeria) basketball player, Ejike Ogbuaja.

“I attended the camp and while playing basketball I couldn’t help but notice the football guys doing their thing, so whenever we had a water break on the court I’d just go over to the field to watch the football workout. When I made the all-star team in the camp Mr Ejike approached me and said ‘you’re the size of a football player, have you ever thought about playing football?’ And he introduced me to guy and right then I made the switch”

However, like the other two Nigerians selected for the NFL IPP, Haggai Chisom Noubuisi and Kehinde Oginni Hassan, Roy has had his fair share of challenges. Football is relatively new to Nigeria and there are no organized leagues, only a handful of coaches and facilities are rare, and the game is not publicized widely.

It is because of this that, like it is for many others, YouTube remained the primary go-to source for drills, knowledge and general information on the game.

After the COVID-19 lockdown in Nigeria, Ejike Ogbuaja put out an open invitation for a football camp being held in Abuja, Nigeria in April 2021. At this time, Roy was in Lagos and so he made his way down to the camp.

In attendance was former New York Giant and NFL Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora. Roy competed against 70 other athletes for a spot in the NFL’s International Player Pathway Combine in London.

Not only did the 21-year-old Roy make it to the combine, he also impressed scouts in London and earned a spot in Arizona in the NFL IPP program.

Expect Roy, along with the other Nigerians, with the support and encouragement from Umenyiora, to turn a few heads in the IPP with their impressive size, athleticism and competitiveness.

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.