Nigerians becoming more involved in American football

Following steps of several NFL and NBA players who have risen to success

Nigeria has a strong presence in the United States, the country with the most Nigerian immigrants in the world. Nigerian representation is particularly strong in the metropolitan area of Houston, Texas. Because the state of Texas is well known for its strong farm system in the sport of American football, this has resulted in more Nigerians reaching the top tier of American football. For example, in the 2016 NFL Draft, three Nigerian players were selected; that was the same number as the amount of players taken from the historical football powerhouse of Chicago, Illinois. Robert Nkemdiche, Germain Ifedi and Emmanuel Ogbah, who can all claim Nigerian descent, were selected in the first two rounds of that draft.

This is particularly reflected at the collegiate level of American football. For example, the University of Southern California currently has five Nigerian players on the roster. “There is an honor about them,” commented USC coach Clay Helton. Nigerians have particularly shined on defense in the sport, as a Nigerian has finished in the national top 25 of tackles in each of the past three seasons. Another sign of their advancement in that tier is that four out of the five major conferences had at least one Nigerian player named to their all-conference teams last year.

In American sports, the most common inspiration to Nigerian athletes is Hakeem Olajuwon, who paved the way for African athletes in the big American sports. Others point to Christian Okoye, nicknamed “The Nigerian Nightmare” for his running style with the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL. Because of this, many players with hardscrabble stories have tried to follow in those two players’ path to success in an effort to improve the lives of their families. For example, Sam and Emmanuel Acho, a pair of brothers who are linebackers in the NFL, often make trips to their parents’ villages to provide basic necessities.

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