Former Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora is creating a new path for African talent to make it to the NFL

Osi Umenyiora believes American football and African athletes are the perfect combination. Though he didn’t start playing football until he was about 15 years old after moving to the US from Nigeria, he built a successful 12-year career in the National Football League (NFL) — including two Super Bowl wins with the New York Giants.

Now, the 40-year-old, UK-born athlete is looking to find talent who will help transform American football into a more internationally appreciated and celebrated game. According to the NFL, there are more than 100 players of African descent already in the league. Umenyiora says on visits back to Nigeria over the years, he’s wanted to make an impact on young people in the country. So in 2020, after securing the backing of the NFL, he co-founded a talent-finding platform called The Uprise with fellow Nigerian and former NBA player Ejike Ugboaja. After holding camps in several African countries, three Nigerian talents from the program were signed to NFL rosters in 2021.  Last month, NFL Africa, the league’s official platform to highlight African players and establish a presence on the continent, held its first official camp in Africa. Scouts were on hand to select the best out of 49 prospects to go into the NFL’s International Player Pathway — which gives athletes from outside the US and Canada the chance to earn a spot on an NFL team. CNN recently spoke with Umenyiora in Abuja, Nigeria, during The Uprise’s regional tryouts, and after the inaugural NFL camp in Ghana.


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