8 international stars added to NFL teams as Eagles ace offers advice

The NFL has sent eight international players to franchises in the NFC North and AFC West as part of the next wave of International Player Pathway (IPP) program stars – with words of advice from Philadelphia Eagles star Jordan Mailata. Mailata is an alumni of the IPP program, and reached Super Bowl LVII with the Eagles back in February only to come up short against the Kansas City Chiefs.

On Thursday the NFL announced that eight players – headlined by six Nigerian stars, an Australian and a Frenchman – have been allocated to NFL clubs, with the 2023 IPP class proving to be the highest number in a single year since the program began in 2017. The IPP aims to help premier athletes earn a spot on an NFL roster and increase the number of international players in the League.

The 2023 IPP class spent 10 weeks at an intensive training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida earlier this year. They also received the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of NFL scouts through a Pro Day at the University of South Florida ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.

From the NFL’s eight divisions the NFC North and the AFC West divisions were chosen to receive IPP players in a random draw and become the 7th and 8th division to participate respectively. The two divisions will see a player added to each roster, a move that ensures all 32 NFL franchises have now received an IPP player since the program began six years ago.

In the NFC North, Nigerian defensive lineman Kenneth Odumegwu joined the Green Bay Packers, while compatriot offensive lineman Roy Mbaeteka was allocated to the Chicago Bears. French defensive tackle Junior Aho is on the Minnesota Vikings, while Australian tight end Patrick Murtagh is heading to the Detroit Lions. 

As for the AFC West, four Nigerian players have been allocated across the division with offensive lineman Chukwuebeka Godrick joining the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Defensive lineman Haggai Ndubuisi is a member of the Denver Broncos. Basil Okoye and David Ebuka Agoha – two defensive line stars – have joined the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders respectively. 

The eight franchises will have the players on the roster until the end of training camp, when the players become eligible for an international player practice squad exemption which grants the team an extra practice squad member. Teams can also elevate the player to the active roster during the season.

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Australian offensive tackle Mailata has enjoyed a fine career since entering the NFL with the Eagles, pairing team with individual success as he signed a four-year deal worth $64million with $40.85m guaranteed. He offered advice to the players, declaring: “My advice to the players coming into the program would be to enjoy and respect the process. 

“Give it everything you’ve got. Embrace the opportunity and don’t let it go to waste. Hard work will always outlast talent.”

Since the IPP began in 2017, 37 international players have signed with NFL teams. There are currently 13 IPP athletes on NFL rosters, with four of these stars on their team’s active roster: Mailata (Eagles), British defensive end Efe Obada (Washington Commanders), German Jakob Johnson (Raiders) and fellow German David Bada (Commanders).

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