The NFL for decades has been marketing itself, televising games and sending teams to Europe, Mexico and the Far East as a way to attract more fans and players to our American football.
The League’s focus expanded this month. A contingent of NFL alumni–accompanied by several active players–travelled to Ghana under an umbrella program called NFL Africa: The Touchdown. There was a two-day tryout camp for 50 top African athletes to show their skills. There also was a fan festival and flag football clinics.
There are more than 100 players of African descent (either born on that continent or first generation of parents born there) on current NFL rosters. Howard Simon Mwikuta in 1970 was the first African-born player ever on an NFL roster when he was signed as a free agent placekicker by the Cowboys. He played in preseason but was waived before the regular season opener that year.
Two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora, who played 12 seasons (2003-14) with the Giants and Falcons, is the primary alumni proponent for developing players of African descent. He was born in London (U.K.) to Nigerian parents and spent eight years in Nigeria as a youth. He has been granting scholarships and donating resources to that country for two decades.
”My hopes and dreams for the program this month,” says the 40-year-old Umenyiora “are first of all to bring attention to all the great alumni from Africa who have been in the league. We also want to give today’s young men of Africa, who have the talent to play this game, an opportunity to travel here and showcase their skills in front of our NFL coaches and player personnel staffs.”
In addition to Umenyiora, NFL Alumni local chapter president Roman Oben, a Cameroon (West Africa) native; Mathias Kiwanuka; and Maruice Jones-Drew participated in the African program as instructors earlier this month.
We at NFL Alumni support any initiative that expands the popularity of our game and identifies young men from around the globe who can contribute as players to the game we all love.