All-Time Best International Players in the NFL?

It’s the American dream: go to high school, play ball, get a scholarship and get drafted into the NFL. But what if you didn’t grow up in America? Well, getting into the NFL can be so much harder without the hype you get as a player in college football, but that doesn’t mean it’s an impossible dream. Rather, to be brought into the NFL as an international player you simply have to make your talent shine across the border/sea.

Which is exactly what these 5 international players successfully achieved, and now they are some of the best players in the NFL:

1. Gosder Cherilus (Haiti)

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Cherilus grew up in Haiti but moved to Somerville, Massachusetts to play high school football where he earned All-State honors. He went on to play college football at Boston and was drafted as 17th pick in the first round by the Detroit Lions. He currently plays offensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is credited as the first Haitian to play in the NFL. Although very talented, Cherilus hit the headlines last year when he was listed as one of the most penalized players in the NFL.

2. Jon Ryan (Canada)

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 11: Jon Ryan #9 of the Seattle Seahawks punts against the Tennessee Titans at CenturyLink Field on August 11, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Jon Ryan

Jon Ryan #9 of the Seattle Seahawks punts against the Tennessee Titans at CenturyLink Field on August 11, 2012 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

Ryan grew up in Canada and started his career in the Canadian Football League playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. He made the transition to the NFL when he was signed by the Green Bay Packers in 2006 before joining his current team, the Seattle Seahawks, in 2008. Ryan plays as a punter and his greatest career moment to-date was helping the Seahawks win Super Bowl XLVIII against the Broncos.

3. Sebastian Vollmer (Germany)

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Vollmer had a slow start to his football career, he didn’t actually start playing until he was 14 years old. Playing for the Houston Cougars football team in 2004, he needed back surgery in his sophomore year. On return, Vollmer changed position to a left tackle where he found much better success, he was drafted to the New England Patriots in 2009. Since then he has been a Super Bowl champion (XLIX), AFC champion twice (2011 and 2014) and been awarded the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award in 2010. In fact, his skills as an offensive tackle has helped keep the Patriots as one of the NFL’s most back teams for the past five years.

4. Sebastian Janikowski (Poland)

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Janikowski attended Florida State University where he became the 3rd all-time scorer for the team over three years with a total of 324 points and won the Lou Groza Award two years in a row. He was signed to the Oakland Raiders as 17th overall pick in the 2000 draft, where he has played ever since. In fact, Janikowski holds the record for the most games played with the Raiders and is the only first round pick from that year still in the NFL.

5. Robert Griffin III (Japan)

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Griffin III was born in Japan where his parents, who were both army sergeants, were posted. Upon returning to America, Griffin III started playing both football and basketball at high school in Texas. He attended Baylor University where he participated in both football on the Baylor Bears team and on the track and field team. He broke various records for both football and running leading to him be the second overall draft pick in 2012 to the Washington Redskins as a quarterback and was the first player in the NFL to have Roman numerals on his jersey. He has just signed a $15 million contract with the Cleveland Browns for two years.

John McKeon
John McKeon is a former professional and collegiate American Football player and coach now living and working in New York. His goal is to spread news, information, and opinion on the global growth of the sport he loves.
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