Players from the International Player Portal having an impact in the NFL

By Mason Mesbah

As the NFL International Player Pathway program becomes older and more well known, we are seeing more and more international players coming into the league and having an impact. While most players from the portal are raw and relatively new to the game, they have the size and skill to make an NFL roster. On the other hand, there have been a few players that have entered the league and instantly became big time players with big roles.

OT – Jordan Mailata – Australia – Philadelphia Eagles

In 2017, Mailata participated in the International Player Pathway program and trained at IMG Academy. He is a former Australian professional rugby league player for the South Sydney Rabbitohs but after his time at the academy he impressed so much that he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. Mailata had a breakout 2020 campaign with starts at both left and right tackle and helped lead the Eagles’ third ranked rushing average offense, and ninth in rushing yards per game. Following the 2020 season, Mailata was named a starting left tackle and signed a four-year contract extension to remain with the Eagles. Mailata has quickly become one of the best tackles in football, and at such a young age.

FB – Jakob Johnson – Germany – Las Vegas Raiders

Johnson began his football career during his youth in his hometown of Stuttgart, Germany, playing for the Stuttgart Scorpions of the German Football League before moving to Jacksonville, Florida. He was then assigned to the New England Patriots through the International Player Pathway program in 2019. The Patriots signed him as a regular member of their practice squad, which gave them the option of promoting him. He was signed to the Patriots‘ active roster on September 21, 2019. He remained with New England for the 2020 season and played all 16 games with 11 starts at fullback and scored his first career touchdown in Week 2. Johnson played in all 17 games in 2021 and signed a new contract with the Las Vegas Raiders this past off season.

DE – Efe Obada – Great Britain – Washington Commanders

Obada played only five games of amateur football with the London Warriors before he signed as a free agent for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015. After stints with the Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons, he joined the Carolina Panthers practice squad as part of the 2017 International Player Pathway program. In 2018, ​Obada became the first player from the program to make a 53-man roster and also played in his first regular season game, and earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week. After recording 50 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three passes defensed, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble, Obada joined the Bills as a free agent for the 2021 season. Obada was reunited with Ron Rivera in Washington, signing a contract with the Commanders this past off season.

TE – Sammis Reyes – Chile – Washington Commanders

Reyes grew up in Santiago, Chile and moved to the United States at age 13 to attend high school. He attended Palm Beach State Junior College to play basketball before joining the men’s basketball program at Tulane. After a successful basketball career, Reyes competed for an NFL roster spot in 2020 through the NFL’s International Player Pathway program, having never played football. Reyes secured a spot on Washington’s 2021 roster, becoming the first Chilean-born player in the NFL. He appeared in his first regular season game in Week 5 against New Orleans and earned his first start in Week 11 against Carolina. Reyes remains a member of the Commanders, hoping for a bigger role in the upcoming season.

OL – Isaac Alarcón García – Mexico – Dallas Cowboys

Garcia is a Mexican born player who played college football at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and joined the Cowboys in 2020 as a part of the league’s International Player Pathway Program. He became a highlight of “Hard Knocks”, inside training camp for the Cowboys in 2020, making many people not only a fan of him, but making people discover the IPP. He was on the Cowboys practice squad for 2020 and signed a reserve/future contract with the Cowboys on January 18, 2022.

Now to highlights some of the new players entering the portal his year:

LB – Aaron Donkor – Germany – Seattle Seahawks

Donkor played football in Germany before coming over through the IPP. He didn’t see any game action during the regular season but was a “pain in the butt” according to head coach Pete Carroll because of his intensity and competitiveness during practice. The Seahawks received another roster exemption for Donkor this season, meaning he would not count against the 16-man practice squad for the second straight season. There is hope for Donkor’s chances of not only making the roster, but having an impact on the field, starting with special teams

OL – Alfredo Gutierrez – Mexico – San Francisco 49ers

Gutierrez is from Mexico and came over to play for the 49ers in 2020. The Niners didn’t promote Gutierrez to the regular season roster last season, but he has reportedly made big improvements and after the loss of Laken Tomlinson, there is a spot on the offensive line that he will have an opportunity to take

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