NFL legend Osi Umenyiora leading recruitment drive in Africa

Former Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora says the future of the NFL is in Africa with more players from the continent set to take the league by storm.

Two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora is leading the NFL's recruitment drive to find the best athletes in Africa to take their chance on the gridiron.

Umenyiora was born in London to Nigerian parents, and went on to become a legend of the game when winning two Super Bowl rings with the New York Giants.

And both times Umenyiora was part of the defence that prevented Tom Brady from adding two more rings to his collection.

NFL players of African descent have continued to find their way into the league, but Umenyiora is now leading the first official recruitment drive on the continent.

The BBC's top NFL pundit Umenyiora led the recent NFL Africa training camp at the Right to Dream Academy in Accra, Ghana, aimed at finding the next big thing to come out of Africa.

'The future of the NFL is in Africa'

Umenyiora was helped out in Ghana by current NFL players including Cleveland Browns linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Indianapolis Colts defensive end Kwity Paye and current Super Bowl champion Ogbonnia Okoronkwo.

There's already a big African presence in the NFL, but Umenyiora believes that even more athletes will take the league by storm, which will in turn increase the game's popularity on the continent.

"There are 100-plus players in the NFL who were born in Africa, or are first-generation, and all of them want to do something back home," Umenyiora told Sports Illustrated.

"Then we know in Africa, you have some of the best athletes, and we're not giving them the opportunity to showcase that talent to make better lives for themselves.

"We also know the demand for that type of talent is in America, and we know the supply is in Africa, so it's a matter of connecting the two. We believe the future of the NFL is in Africa."

Pathway to the NFL for African players

From the African training camps, players who are good enough will then either go through the International Pathway Program (IPP) to try and make the NFL, or the NFL Academy in London to learn their trade.

"IPP and then the NFL Academy - which is the guys who are under 19 years old - they go to the academy," Umenyiora said on the route to the NFL.

"The ones who are like 20, 21, 22 - they can go to the Combine in London and then to the International Player Pathway.

"We'll sit down. All the guys who came will have a discussion. It's going to be tough. Some guys will make it, some won't, but I think we'll find the right ones."

With the game now growing around the world, Umenyiora wants to see the NFL become popular around Africa, with so many players to follow.

"Long-term, I believe that if you go into any house, any bar, any restaurant in Africa, you're going to be seeing NFL games in 10 years, all over the screens. That's what I want.

"I want there to be more players, more African players in the NFL, in high schools, in colleges, I want more people to be given more opportunities.

"Then on top of that, hopefully we'll have academies there or training camps there or be able to play a preseason game there. Maybe the Pro Bowl."

READ MORE: Efe Obada's amazing journey to the NFL

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