Monday, December 18, 2023

Top NFL Players Who Hail from Nigeria

Nigerians have been leaving an indelible mark on the global sports stage for many years. Consequently, it comes as no surprise that numerous Nigerian athletes have become integral parts of football, basketball, and tennis teams in international clubs and leagues.

American football is no exception, and the National Football League (NFL) consistently welcomes Nigerian players into the beloved sport of the United States.

Let's delve into the achievements of some noteworthy Nigerian players in the NFL.

James Ihedigbo

James Ihedigbo was a football safety for the New York Jets, New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions, and Buffalo Bills from 2008 to 2016. He was born to Nigerian parents who immigrated to the United States.

Prior to joining the NFL, he had an impressive football career at the University of Massachusetts. According to Ihedigbo, his love for the sport started when he was just six years old. Although he dabbled in soccer, he found American football to be far more enjoyable.

Ositadimma "Osi" Umenyiora

Osi Umenyiora is a former defensive end for the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons, and no Nigerian NFL player list would be complete without him. Although born in London, Umenyiora spent a significant portion of his early life in Nigeria before moving to Alabama at the age of 14.

He played football at Auburn High School and later for the Troy State Trojans in college. In the NFL, Umenyiora secured two Super Bowl victories and broke a record for fumbles. Post-retirement, he initiated efforts to facilitate more Nigerians' direct entry into the NFL.

Kenneth Odumegwu

Odumegwu's football journey jump-started with the help of Osi Umenyiora, who encouraged him to make the move from Nigeria to the U.S. to join the NFL at the age of 22. As part of Umenyiora’s program, The Uprise, designed to give African athletes opportunities to be drafted by major NFL teams, Odumegwu signed with the Green Bay Packers as a defensive lineman in 2023.

Prior to that, he spent time as a soccer player, and then a basketball player when he was told his height would make him useful in that sport. However, he is now known as the first player from the International Player Pathway program to ever join the Packers.

Amobi Okoye

Nigerian-born Amobi Okoye is the youngest player to ever be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft, and he was first picked by the Houston Texans in 2007 at the age of 19. After playing with the Texans, he went on to play with the Chicago Bears and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers through 2012.

However, in March of 2013, he suffered a seizure due to anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a relatively new disease that affects the areas of the brain that control memories and judgments. Since his diagnosis, Okoye has retired from the NFL and made a full recovery for his health.

Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi

Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi didn’t start playing American football until he was 18 years old, while he was still living in Nigeria. He claims to have started playing after just watching a YouTube video of the sport.

In 2023, he was drafted by the Denver Broncos as a defensive lineman. Before his draft, Ndubuisi was an offensive lineman who competed in the Cardinals’ training camp.

Chukwuebuka Jason Godrick

Chukwuebuka Jason Godrick is an offensive lineman for the Kansas City Chiefs, working alongside players like Patrick Mahomes and Prince Tega Wanogho. After being drafted in 2023 at the age of 22, he joined the Chiefs’ training camp with little knowledge of the sport.

Like other fresh international players, he was a basketball player back home in Nigeria.


Nigerian players have undeniably altered the landscape of the NFL, contributing to Super Bowl victories and setting numerous records. Both retired and current players continue to showcase their athletic prowess, serving as inspirations for future generations of Nigerians venturing into American football.

Related story: NFL player-turned doctor starting medical practice in Nigeria

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