International players who had an impact in the NFL in 2020

The 2020 NFL regular season came to its scheduled conclusion last weekend, somehow miraculously surviving a major disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the playoffs kick off on Saturday, fans from all over the world will be tuning in and that rabid interest in pro football has produced some exceptional international talents in recent years. With thousands of players on NFL rosters in a given season, it can be difficult for fans to keep track of how every player is doing. For just that reason, we’ve assembled a comprehensive list of international players in the NFL ranks and recapped their 2020 accomplishment. For the purposes of this list, we’ve excluded native born Canadians due to their statistically higher numbers and focused only on players raised primarily overseas, so childhood immigrants need not apply. The resulting list is an impressive group of players from all over the world who have beaten the odds to make their home countries proud.

David Onyemata, DT, New Orleans Saints (Nigeria)

The kid who made his way to the University of Manitoba from Nigeria and picked up a football for the first time at 19 is now the NFL’s best player raised outside North America. Though an adopted Canadian, Onyemata is Nigerian through and through and he’s a nightmare for NFL opponents. As the Saints starting defensive tackle, Onyemata amassed 44 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and 46 total pressures. Oh, and he picked off Tom Brady. Talk about a diamond in the rough.

New Orelans Saints DL David Onyemata Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Cairo Santos, K, Chicago Bears (Brazil)

The kicker woes of the Chicago Bears are no longer. Santos set a franchise record by hitting 27 consecutive field goals to end the year, finishing 30-of-32 on the season with a career long of 55 yards. The Brazilian also went 36-for-37 on point-afters and helped to kick his team into the playoffs.

Michael Dickson, P, Seattle Seahawks (Australia)

When it comes to Aussie punters, there is no question that Michael Dickson continues to be the cream of the crop. He put his booming leg to use 61 times in 2020 and sits third in the NFL in both true and net average per punt with 49.6 and 44.4 yards respectively. His field flipping ability pinned opponents inside their on twenty on more than half of his kicks, 32 in total and more than any other punter, proving Dickson to be a rare difference maker at the position.

Adam Gotsis, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars (Australia)

It may have come on the worst team in football, but Adam Gotsis had an exceptional 2020. The Australian suited up for every game with the Jaguars and made 14 starts, shining as one of the league’s most consistent run defenders on a horrid defense. Gotsis ended the season with 37 tackles, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and three pass deflections, while adding 11 total pressures as a pass rusher. Not bad for a kid from Melbourne.

Jacksonville Jaguars DL Adam Gotsis Photo: AP Photo/Matt Stamey

Efe Obada, DE, Carolina Panthers (England)

The International Player Pathway’s biggest star wasn’t an every down player for Carolina, but he sure made an impact when allowed to rush the passer. After being briefly cut after training camp, Obada responded with a 5.5 sack season and 29 total quarterback pressures. The former London Warrior also made 18 tackles, four tackles for loss, forced a fumble and recovered two, proving he’ll be Britain’s NFL star for years to come.

Mitch Wishnowsky, P, San Francisco 49ers (Australia)

Another big Aussie leg, Wishnowsky sits eleventh in both average yards per punt at 46.9 and net average with 42.3. He’s also hit 25 punts inside the twenty, making him a top player on a San Francisco team that underperformed this year.

Jakob Johnson, FB, New England Patriots (Germany)

Fullbacks might be a rarity these days, but Jakob Johnson is one of the most important at the position in the entire NFL. One of the key components to the Patriots run game, the former Stuttgart Scorpion opened some big holes for his teammates. He also added eight catches for 35 yards and the first ever offensive touchdown by a German player in the NFL. The Patriots might have missed the playoffs this year, but Jakob Johnson still made history.

New England Patriots FB Jakob Johnson from Germany Photo: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Jack Crawford, DE, Tennessee Titans (England)

The elder statesman of the NFL’s European contingent, Crawford is still a major contributor to a playoff team at 32. Playing all 16 games and making nine starts for the Titans, the Londoner racked up 28 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss in his ninth season. The veteran Brit also added a forced fumble and generated 18 pressures in a solid campaign.

Cameron Johnston, P, Philadelphia Eagles (Australia)

When you are as inept offensively as the Eagles were this year, you do a lot of punting. That burden fell on Johnston, who’s 46.7 average and 41.2 net firmly placed him in the top half of the league, as did his 26 punts downed inside the twenty. That’s solid performance with a big workload.

Jordan Mailata, OL, Philadelphia Eagles (Australia)

The first player every drafted from the International Player Pathway Program finally had his breakout campaign. The freakish rugby player made 10 starts, nine at left tackle and one at right tackle, and made the most of it. Mailata allowed seven sacks while dealing with some questionable quarterback play and gained a reputation for athletic blocking in the run game. Still a developmental prospect, the Aussie’s arrow is firmly pointing up.

Philidelphia Eagles Jordan Mailata holds off Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Lyndon Johnson 92 in a preseason game Photo: Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

Jordan Berry, P, Pittsburgh Steelers (Australia)

The final Aussie punter on this list, Jordan Berry had a lighter workload than most playing for a strong Pittsburgh team. He finished the year with an average of 45.8, a net of 40.5 and 23 kicks inside the twenty, a solid season he will look to extend in the playoffs.

Jermaine Eluemunor, OL, New England Patriots (England)

2020 was a rough year for a traditionally dominant Patriots team but it was a career year for Jermaine Eluemunor. The Brit made eight starts split between both right and left tackle, overcoming a mid-season knee injury to allow just three sacks and 11 total pressures all season. After being acquired in a trade in 2019, Eluemunor is paying off for the Pats.

Margus Hunt, DT, Cincinnati Bengals (Estonia)

Eight years in and the former Estonian shot putter is still hanging around the NFL. Hunt started the season with the New Orleans Saints but after being released in October, he rejoined the Cincinnati team that drafted him in the second round in 2013. Between the two clubs, Hunt suited up in 13 games, making 9 tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and four pass deflections while anchoring space in the middle. You better believe they are still cheering in Karksi-Nuia.

Cincinnati Bengals DL Margus Hunt Photo: George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Jamie Gillan, P, Cleveland Browns (Scotland)

He may have the best nickname in football, but the Scottish Hammer finished 2020 near the bottom of the league in punting. His 44-yard average and 38.3 net were both fourth worse in the NFL and he pinned just 14 punts inside the twenty. Here’s hoping the Scotsman has better luck in the playoffs.

Hjalte Froholdt, OL, Houston Texans (Denmark)

Hjalte Froholdt is another European that changed teams midway through 2020. The former Sollerod Gold Digger dressed in 8 games for the New England Patriots and saw most of the snaps at right guard in Week 6, performing well, but was cut by the team in late November. Two days later, Houston picked him up and unfortunately the massive Dane finished the season on the Texans COVID-19 list.

Mark Nzeocha, LB, San Francisco 49ers (Germany)

German linebacker Mark Nzeocha had a mostly uneventful year. Spending most of 2020 on the 49ers injured reserve, the former seventh round pick played in just five games, recording a single tackle.

Ezekiel Ansah, DE, San Francisco 49ers (Ghana)

The born and raised Ghanaian who picked up football in college is probably the NFL’s best known international from his time as a double-digit sack man in Detroit but 2020 was a year to forget. Ansah played just two games without a tackle before tearing his bicep and spending the rest of the season on injured reserve.

The following international players spent the year on NFL practice roster:

Kaare Vedvik, K, Washington Football Team (Norway) / Sandro Platzgummer, RB, New York Giants (Austria) / Durval Queiroz-Neto, DT/OL, Miami Dolphins (Brazil) / David Bada, DE, Washington Football Team (Germany) / Matt Leo, DE, Philadelphia Eagles (Australia) /Lac Edwards, P, Los Angeles Chargers (Australia) / Prince Tega Wanogho, OL, Philadelphia Eagles (Nigeria) / Christian Wade, RB, Buffalo Bills (England) / Isaac Alarcon, OL, Dallas Cowboys (Mexico)

J.C. Abbott is a student at the University of British Columbia and amateur football coach in Vancouver, Canada. A CFL writer for 3DownNation, his love of travel has been the root of his fascination with the global game.