Football is slowing losing its claim as being a strictly American sport. Though the vast majority of players are born in the United States, we have seen a influx of foreign-born players come into the league. 2013 set a record for having the most foreign-born players ever selected during the draft. Even more intriguing is the fact that these players are not just going to be spending their professional football careers on the bench. Five of last year’s draft prospects were expected to be taken in the first round.
Typically, NFL scouts have wanted to stay away from foreign-born players. These players are not considered to be ready for the NFL. This is because football is not played very much outside of the United States. Therefore, many of these players enter the draft with much less football experience than American prospects.
The NFL has really been attempting to beef up their presence in the international arena. Over the past couple of years, we have seen games been played in Mexico and Europe. This trend will not be ending any time soon. The league is also trying to find new ways to gain public interest in the Canadian Football League and the European Football League. There has even been talk about starting an NFL franchise in London, England.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wants to keep expanding the popularity of American football. He is proposing more games on foreign land and more media coverage worldwide. The NFL is committed to bringing the sport to as many new fans as possible. This will only mean there will be more players born outside of the United States entering the NFL in the years to come.
With the 2014 NFL draft just around the corner, we will definitely be seeing more of these players enter the league. It is unknown if there will be as many foreign-born players drafted this year as there was in 2013. However, we have definitely seen that NFL coaches are willing to get creative when it comes to bringing new talent into the locker room. These foreign-born players may take a little bit longer to develop than some of the prospects that have been playing the game on American soil their entire lives, but if they can show they have all the necessary talents, they have a good chance at making a career in the NFL.
10. Nate Burleson – WR – Detroit Lions
Veteran wide receiver Nate Burleson is a native of Calgary, Alberta. He was drafted in 2003 by the Minnesota Vikings. After spending two seasons with the Vikings, he has journeyed to Seattle and Detroit. Burleson is currently a free agent and a very good candidate for any team looking to add a solid wide out. Though he is a strong slot receiver, Burleson’s great achievement came as a punt returner. He was the first person in NFL history to return three punts of 90 or more yards for touchdowns.
9. Star Lotulelei – DT – Carolina Panthers
Carolina Panthers’ defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was born in Tonga. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2013 draft. In his rookie season, Lotulelei showed flashes of greatness. He led all defensive tackles in run stopping percentage and helped the Panthers improved from 14th to second in the league in run defense. He finished fourth in the voting for the Rookie of the Year Award and is sure to have a phenomenal career ahead of him.
8. Ziggy Ansah – DE – Detoit Lions
Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah was born in Accra, Ghana. The Detroit Lions chose him with the fifth overall pick in last year’s draft. Analysts believe the Lions took the defensive end a bit too high and claimed he is just too “raw”. In his first season, Ansah proved all the doubters wrong by leading all rookies in sacks. His eight sacks were the second most in Detroit’s very long history.
7. Sebastian Vollmer – OT – New England Patriots
New England Patriots offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer was born in Dusseldorf, Germany and was drafted in 2009. He played a key role in helping the Patriots win the AFC Championship that season. In 2010, Vollmer was named second team All Pro, but did not get voted into the Pro Bowl. The tackle has yet to miss a single game in his career.
6. Mike Jenkins – CB – Oakland Raiders
Mike Jenkins is a Pro Bowl cornerback from Nuremburg, Germany. He was drafted in 2008 by the Dallas Cowboys. He played with them through the 2012 season. After spending 2013 with the Raiders, he is going to be suiting up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season. Jenkins showed a lot of promise early in career. In 2009, he made his first Pro Bowl, but has not been back since.
5. Robert Griffin III – QB – Washington Redskins
Robert Griffin III’s parents were staff sergeants in the United States Military. He spent much of his childhood travelling from military base to military base. At the time of his birth, RG3’s parents were stationed in Okinawa, Japan. After a stellar college career, he became the second overall pick in the 2012 draft. In his first season with the Washington Redskins, Griffin was selected to go to the Pro Bowl and was named Offensive Rookie of the Year. On January 9th, 2013, he underwent surgery on his torn ACL and LCL ligaments. He missed all of the 2013 training camp and preseason. There was a great deal of controversy about whether or not he should start the season. After performing poorly, he was finally benched in week fourteen. RG3 should be back to full health this season and will hopefully be able to return to his 2012 form.
4. Sebastian Janikowski – K – Oakland Raiders
Walbrzych, Poland’s Sebastian Janikowski became the fourth place kicker ever selected in the first round of the NFL draft when he was chosen by the Oakland Raiders in 2000. Since then, Janikowski has been one of the best kickers in the league. He is the Raiders’ all-time leading scorer and holds multiple kicking records. Janikowski has kicked more sixty-yard field goals than anyone else in his career. He also hold the records for most fifty and forty-yard field goals in a single game. Up until last season, he was tied for the longest kick in NFL history. Even though he has had a very impressive career, the Raiders’ kicker has only been to the Pro Bowl once.
3. Michael Roos – OT – Tennessee Titans
Micheal Roos is a native to Taebla, Estonia. He was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2005. Roos has started every game of his career at offensive tackle for the Titans. He was named and All Pro three times and made the Pro Bowl in 2009.
2. Tamba Hali – LB – Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs’ star linebacker Tamba Hali was born in Gharnga, Liberia. He was drafted in 2006 and was a member of the NFL All Rookie Team for that season. In the past four years, he has been selected to the Pro Bowl every time. His best season came in 2010, when he led the AFC in sacks.
1. Osi Umenyiora – LB – Atlanta Falcons
London, England-born Osi Umenyiora is the only Super Bowl Champion on this list. He was a member of the Giants when the team won both Super Bowl XLII and XLVI. Since being drafted in 2003, the star offensive lineman has been to two Pro Bowls. In 2005, he led the NFC in sacks. He also holds an NFL record for the most forced fumbles in a single season. Umenyiora is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons.