NFL IPP looks to Nigeria for bigger bodies

This year, the vast majority of selections for the NFL’s International Pathway Program (IPP) were either defensive or offensive lineman or tight ends, showing a commitment to the big boys.

Of the 44 selectees, 30 were trench players. The move comes after much criticism over the talent selected last year with many of the invitees not being considered elite talent.

The most notable change from last year to this year however is the volume of players coming by way of the Up Rise Academy in Nigeria.

Kehinde Hassan, Mbaeteka Chigbo Roy and Haggai Noubuisi

The Academy first came on the scene last year with three unknowns in Kehinde Hassan, Mbaeteka Chigbo Roy and Haggai Noubuisi wowing scouts with their sheer size and athleticism.

The Uprise Academy, founded and propelled by former Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora, this year will send 12 of its young athletes to the combine. Nigeria will now be represented more than any other country at the combine.

This move is unsurprising however as Hassan, Chigbo Roy and Noubuisi were all claimed by NFL teams before the IPP program even selected its four finalists.

The NFL saw what they liked, put more into the hands of NFL Africa (run by Umenyiora), and are now asking its West African representative to funnel players into the NFL.

With 10% of all NFL players having direct ties to West Africa through heritage, Uemnyiora’s efforts are hardly a stab in the dark. The only surprise is that it took this long.

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.