The Best Foreign Players to Make a Significant Impact in the NFL

As it’s well known, playing in the NFL is the holy grail of football and the path that young hopefuls take to achieve their wildest dreams. Millions of boys and young men grow up watching their favorite stars on television or at their local stadium, fantasizing about their own future as a professional athlete. It is incredibly hard to make the cut, and thousands fail attempting to do so – even some of those Americans who are lucky enough to land a scholarship and progress through the college football system.

But how about those football enthusiasts that watch from afar, sitting in front of a TV thousands of miles away, wondering if they would be able to make it in the best league in the world. How can they take their opportunity to live their dreams? Do they risk it all and travel to the United States to have a go at their one chance in the NFL, or shrug it off and never see their goal become a reality?

Or maybe they moved to the US at an earlier age and were immediately affected by the ferocity and raw power that this marvelous game offers. Upon arriving they couldn’t resist the lure of the action-packed spectacle and knew that this was truly the sport for them, quickly signing up with their nearest team or heading down to the local field to support their favorite club.

In a sport that is not played in the same capacity in other countries as it is in its homeland, NFL has always been dominated by American players. However, over the years there have been quite a few foreigners that have tried their luck on the gridiron. Let’s take a look at the players that threw it all on the line and won, breaking the mold, and becoming the most successful foreign stars to play in the NFL.

Source: Diehard Boston Sports Fans via Facebook.

Sebastian Vollmer

Vollmer was the first German-born player ever to be drafted into the NFL. He didn’t start playing the game until he was 14, joining a German football club where he helped them to a 25-0 record and two Junior Bowl trophies.  He received his big break when the team made an appearance in the 2004 Global Junior Championships in California where he caught the eye of some extremely interested scouts.

Sebastian was recruited to the University of Houston as a tight end but made the switch to offensive tackle later on. In 2009 he was drafted by New England and went on to play seven successful seasons with the club.

He was fortunate enough to be part of a Super Bowl winning side back in 2015 as well as AFC Champions on two occasions in 2011 and 2014.  Vollmer also took out the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award in 2010. In 2016 he announced his retirement after niggling injuries continued to hamper his playing ability.

Offensive tackles like Sebastian are part of the reason the Patriots have been one of the most backed teams over the last few years. He will be happy to know that his beloved team are favorites once again to claim a consecutive Super Bowl, with bookmakers having them at +450 to lift the trophy. For those sports lovers that want to get behind New England but are a little hesitant so early in the season, they may want to try a tipping site such as Oddschecker and take advantage of some of the free bets to minimize their risk. The Patriots are looking strong once again this year and it’s going to take something special to stop them.

Source: Osi Umenyiora via Facebook.

Ositadimma ‘Osi’ Umenyiora

Born in London England to Nigerian parents, Osi eventually moved to Auburn, Alabama to live with his sister when he was fourteen years old. He played his college football at Troy University and was selected in the 2003 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. While there, he played as an outside linebacker or defensive end and still holds the Giants franchise record for most sacks in one game.

During his time at the club, he won two Super Bowls as well as earning himself two Pro Bowl appearances and two All-Pro selections. He is one of only four British players to have ever won a Super Bowl.

After his retirement from professional football, he started a career in the media with the BBC; he hopes to raise the game’s international profile in the UK and internationally.

Source: Zach Klein via Facebook.

Morten Andersen

Andersen is undeniably the most successful foreign player to have played American football. He holds the record for the most games played in the NFL with a staggering 382, and is the all-time leading scorer in the history of the game, with a mind-blowing 2,554 points.

In addition to that, he still holds the record for most points scored for two teams: the New Orleans Saints where he spent 13 years, and the Atlanta Falcons where he played for 8 seasons. A phenomenal accomplishment from someone who was hoping to pursue a career in soccer during his early days.

Originally from Denmark, Andersen moved to America when he was 17 as part of an exchange program. He played football for one year and then was snapped up by Michigan State University on a full scholarship.

During his illustrious 25-year career, Morten played for five different NFL teams, smashing records with his amazing kicking ability. He earned seven Pro Bowl and six All-Pro selections and was rewarded by making the 1980s and 1990s NFL All-Decade Team.

Source: Raider Nation via Facebook.

Sebastian Janikowski

Born in Poland, Janikowski, as most Europeans do, originally played soccer and was a member of the U-17 Polish national team.

After moving to the US he attended Florida State University for three years where he became the third all-time scorer with a total of 324 points and won the Lou Groza award for two consecutive years.

In the NFL Draft of 2000, he was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the first round and has remained at the club for his entire career. Nicknamed ‘The Polish Cannon,’ he holds the record for the most games played for the club and is a fan favorite everywhere you go in Oakland.

Until 2013 he held the tied record for the longest field goal made at 63-yards.

Even at thirty-nine years of age, his goal kicking ability is as strong as ever, and as long as he keeps putting points on the board, the Raiders will be happy to keep him on their roster.

Source: Chuck Noll via Facebook.

Ernie Stautner

For the last player on this list, we’re going to go all the way back to 1925 when Eddie was born in Bavaria, Germany. At the age of three, his parents decided to immigrate to New York and that is where Stautner would fall in love with the game of football.

He spent some time with the Marine Corps and then was eventually drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, with whom he played with for the next 13 seasons. He was well known for his toughness and imposed his powerful play upon any opposition that was willing to take him on. One time he was even reported to have finished a game after sustaining a broken finger earlier during play.

The defensive tackle won two Super Bowls and his number 70 shirt has been retired by the Steelers in honor of his contribution to the club. In 1969, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and later became a coach back in Germany.

Although the sport’s home will always be the United States, it’s fantastic to see the game expanding its reach across the globe and encouraging other countries to get involved. There’s no doubt that in the future we will surely see more and more individuals from foreign places embrace the game, the same way these magnificent players have successfully done so.

AFI
American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!
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