Are most of these players Nigerian born and have relocated? If so, that is simply amazing and a testament to the athletic ability of these players considering they probably had no exposure to the sport before coming state side.
Aramide Olanyian and Other Notable Nigerian Football Players
As a proud Nigerian American and Michigan alum who is hoping for Aramide Olanyian to choose Michigan, I thought I would fill the rest of you in on some of the great current NFL and college players of Nigerian descent. It is interesting that most have ended up on the defensive side of the ball and many are great pass rushers.
I will start with Nigerians on the current UM roster:
1) Obi Ezeh - LB - RS Junior - Undeclared LS&A
2.) Patrick Omameh - OL - RS Freshman - Engineering
3.) Ohene Opong-Owusu - OL - RS Senior - Economics
Nigerians in current ESPN 150 High School Recruiting Rankings:
1.) Owamagbe Odighizuwa - #37 - DE
2.) Aramide Olaniyan - #124 - OLB
3.) George Uko - #131 - DT
Nigerians on Big Ten Rosters:
1.) WISCONSIN (2)
2.) MINNESOTA (2)
3.) OHIO STATE (1)
4.) PENN STATE (1)
5.) ILLINOIS (1)
6.) NORTHWESTERN (1)
7.) PURDUE (1)
8.) INDIANA (NONE)
9.) IOWA (NONE)
10.) MICHIGAN STATE (NONE)
Notable NFL Nigerians (Alma Mater in Parentheses)*:
1.) Osi Umenyiora - DL - New York Giants (Troy)
2.) Nnamdi Asomugha - DB - Oakland Raiders (Cal)
3.) Adewale Ogunleye - DL - Chicago Bears (Indiana)
4.) Amobi Okoye - DL - Houston Texans (Louisville)
5.) Akin Ayodele - ILB - Miami Dolphins (Purdue)
6.) James Ihedigbo - FS - New York Jets (UMASS)
7.) Brendon Ayanbadejo - ILB - Baltimore Ravens (UCLA)
8.) Chinedum Ndukwe - SS - Cincinnati Bengals (Notre Dame)
9.) Frank Okam - DL - Houston Texans (Texas)
10.) Brian Orakpo - DE - Washington Redskins (Texas)
10.) Victor Abiamiri - DE - Philadelphia Eagles (Notre Dame)
11.) Victor Adeyanju - DE - St. Louis Rams (Indiana)
12.) Devin Aromashodu - WR - Chicago Bears (Auburn)
13.) Oshiomogho Atogwe - FS - St. Louis Rams (Stanford)
14.) Remi Ayodele - DT - New Orleans Saints (Oklahoma)
15.) Isaiah Ekejiuba - LB - Oakland Raiders (Virginia)
16.) Israel Idonije - DL - Chicago Bears (Manitoba, Canada)
17.) Ovie Mughelli - FB - Baltimore Ravens (Wake Forest)
18.) Ikechukwu Ndukwe - OT - Kansas City Chiefs (Northwestern)
19.) Chike Okeafor - OLB - Arizona Cardinals (Purdue)
20.) Tony Ugoh - OT - Indianapolis Colts (Arkansas)
21.) Uche Nwaneri - G - Jacksonville Jaguars (Purdue)
22.) Ogemdi Nwagbuo - DT - San Diego Chargers (Michigan State)
23.) Frank Omiyale - G - Chicago Bears (Tennessee Tech)
24.) BJ Raji - DT - Green Bay Packers (Boston College)
25.) Kenny Onatolu - LB - Minnesota Vikings (Nebraska-Omaha)
26.) Kenny Iwebema - DE - Arizona Cardinals (Iowa)
27.) Samkon Gado - RB - St. Louis Rams (Liberty)
28.) Chris Ogbonnaya - RB - St. Louis Rams (Texas)
29.) Ben Obomanu - WR - Seattle Seahawks (Auburn)
*I apologize for the somewhat random order but it was tough to confirm all of these guys although most of the names were pretty obvious for me.
This probably fits under what Peter King from SI calls "Factoid of the Week That May Interest Only Me" in his weekly Monday Morning QB columns but I was looking it up and thought I would share it with the group.
Start Waving the Nigerian flag for Obi Ezeh in the student section, maybe it will fire him up to improve his play!
Oshiomogho Atogwe came Canada side. Just wanted to point that out, he's all we got.
The majority of these guys are second generation like myself. I was born in Nigeria but moved here as an infant in 1982. There was a huge migration of Nigerian professionals to the U.S. during the 1980s. Most who came were doctors, engineers, lawyers, and other professionals. Many also became cab drivers! If you have a cab driver with an accent, ask if he is Nigerian, I would bet you that he has an advanced degree in something!
In the late 1970s, there was a Nigerian immigrant who did gardening work and odd jobs up and down our block while attending a local university to get recredentialed as a professor.
He taught at the University of Lagos before coming to the US, then had to start over, basically, to work as a professor in the US.
His family fled after the coup in 1975.
My Grandfather on my mother's side was the Vice Chancellor at University of Lagos from 1962-1965. There was a controversy over his reappointment in 1965 and he resigned and ended up as a visiting professor for a year at Michigan State of all places!
It is impressive how long that list is. Great players. Could you help us do the same thing for famous Jewish football players? I don't think it will take you as long. Let's see...Bernie Kosar,.........................Are you sure Osi Umenyiora is not Jewish?
In Newman's three years at Michigan, the Wolverines lost only one game, won three Big Ten Conference championship, and had a combined record of 24-1-2. As a senior in 1932, Newman led the team to an undefeated season and national championship, as he played 437 out of 480 minutes of game time in Michigan's eight games. In 1932, Newman was a unanimous first-team All-American, and the recipient of the Douglas Fairbanks Trophy as Outstanding College Player of the Year (predecessor of the Heisman Trophy)
And Benny Friedman, first great passer in football.
Adam Kraus is Jewish.
Outside of Michigan, there's Sage Rosenfels. And Goldberg, who played football for Georgia before becoming a pro wrestler.
Maybe we should create another diary for us?
Your "Notable Jewish Football Players" will be much more interesting than my "Notable Irish-American Football Players". That list would probably read as a Whos Who of Notre Dame football anyway and frankly I view Notre Dame's usurping the heritage of Ireland as every Irish-Americans secret shame.
My father majored in African Studies at MSU* in the '60s, and this included studying Yoruba.
When in New York about 10 years ago, my dad got in a cab, noticed the driver was from Nigeria, and said "e kaa ro." The driver had to do a double-take -- here he is in New York, and this Jewish guy is speaking his native language.
It's still my father's favorite anecdote.
How many of these names are Yoruba, versus Hausa or Igbo?
Also: Ohene's brother B.J. Opong-Owusu was a safety at Michigan from 2003-'06.
* Was only there because it was preferable to Southeast Asia. He dropped out once the student deferments ended, and remains a Michigan fan, albeit with a post-loss dissonance that is profoundly Sparty.
My Grandfather was a visting professor at MSU in 1965, small world. I am Igbo so I think I can at least break down the Igbo players for you, it is a bit more difficult for me to positively identify the others:
1.) All of the current Big Ten players are Igbo with the exception of Ogundipe.
2.) All 3 current UM players are Igbo.
3.) NFL - I believe it comes to 21 out of 29 Igbo. I will identify the star players:
-Osi Umenyiora - Igbo
-Nnamdi Asomugha - Igbo
-Adewale Ogunleye - Yoruba
-Amobi Okoye - Igbo
-Akin Ayodele - Yoruba
Fellow Nigerians, please feel free to correct me if I did not get these all correct.
I think my pop got to East Lansing in the fall of '66 -- maybe took the class in '67 or '68. If your grandpa was still there, let me know -- I can't imagine there were that many Nigerian professors at MSU, right?
Your research suggests Nigerian is the new Samoan. As there are currently zero Brazilians in the NFL to my knowledge, I say congratulations.
to claim Ara Parseghian, Steve Sarkisian, Gary Danielson, and, uh, Steve Furness, Garo Yepremian, and Rien Long (?) as apparently the only Armenians who have ever been involved in American Football. Nice diary entry, and props to Nigeria on producing so much football talent.
Thanks for making the list. Your positional observation seems quite accurate. That's very interesting.
Love the diary, sounds like a good idea to me aside from the fact that some people might misinterpret the Nigerian flag for an MSU flag.
"Soko" is the family name of some Liberians in my church. I wonder if this is related to the name "Cissoko?" Any other African or African refugee/immigrant players you are aware of? Fascinating dynamic. However, interestingly, I struggle to think of hardly any players of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or Vietnamese heritage.
boubacar was born in ghana
This is a very common west African name. I believe it is most often found in the Ivory Coast.
As far as other African players go, there are many others throughout college and professional football but the majority are Nigerian. Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and I believe has more immigrants to the U.S. than any other African nation.
Wow - a more extensive list than I would've imagined.
On the M hoops team, you can add Eso Akunne.
When I think "Nigerian football player" I think Christian Okoye. What a freak of nature (in a good way).
he was on the short end of one of the best safety hits of all time. Steve Atwater was giving up 35-40 lbs. but ... check the vid around 1:25 ...
I remember as a child watching the beginning of a Chiefs playoff game. They had this montage of Okoye coming from the wilds of Africa with exotic animals and I asked my dad if there were giraffes and lions in Nigeria and he said "no, this is the dumbest thing I have ever seen!" Nigeria is not exactly known for its wildlife! Unfortunately, we are best known for oil and corruption but hopefully that perception is beginning to change.
I was back last summer and a great deal of progress has been made. In Lagos there were brand new banks on every corner in the central business district and a modern bus system had been started that has hopefully taken some of the pressure off of the "okadas" (basically cheap motorcycle taxis that men in business suits and women in dresses and skirts hire to take them to work).
Do you know if Tshimanga Biakabutuka is Nigerian?
...was born in Kinshasa, which I believe at the time was in Zaire.
Wikipedia says that he was born in Kinshasa, which was in Zaire at the time and now is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Biakabutuka was born in Kinshasa, Congo. He is Congolese.
Why are Tapin and A Case of Blue getting negged? They both answered correctly. Being Congolese means being from the country currently known as the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo), formerly known as Zaire. Kinshasha is the capital.
Probably the same reason Dat UofM Paint Guy got negged for asking a question. This place is bonkers...at least most people stopped taking points too seriously a few weeks ago.
Amobe Akoye is fascinating. He is currently 22. He chose Louisville over Harvard for football and started at age 15!! A lot of kids haven't even finished growing at that age. And it was only 3 years after moving from Nigeria. He graduated with a degree in psychology (switched from biology) in 3 1/2 years. Guys like Akoye and Bernie Kozar amaze me because it can be a little hard to graduate a semester early (mainly an issue of getting your shit together early though), but doing that while playing D-I football?
Thanks Naijablue. This is one of the most unique posts i have seen on here. Very interesting to me.
Atogwe is the pride of Windsor, Ontario (played at my rival HS) and is cousins with one of my former teammates. Props to him for making it to a good D1 program and a great school in Stanford. Led in the NFL (or was it the NFC) in interceptions a couple years back.
Christian Okoye was a monster RB. I used to love watching him run, he had a great combination of size and speed.
as a nigerian myself, i am VERY hapy wit this post.
i know wisdom at illinois, great guy. nigeria for life
My bank is several trying to send you to $10million US. All we ask is your routing number.
Not going to lie - very interesting post. And any post that brings up my favorite non-Lion player growing up (Christian Okoye) is A+ in my book.
Thanks for writing that up, it's pretty interesting to see. Also, Nigerians have almost uniformly awesome names.
I figured out why the Lions suck, 0 Nigerians on the team.
The first person I thought of when reading this was definitely Chrisian Okoye. Dude was a total beast (real life and tecmo bowl). Also my favorite player growing up. I had no clue there were this many Nigerian players in the NFL. Interesting post.
One of my favorites too and he made me a fan of the Chiefs.
I love a fellow Michigan Man who takes as much pride in his culture as you do. Thanks for the thread.
I will be making a thread of Greeks in the NFL and college once I have the time to sit down and bang my head against the wall.
Thanks again my friend.
I too hope Aramide Olaniyan becomes a Wolverine...and not just because he is Nigerian.
The Penn State commit from Warren Mott.
If so, you guys are a great bunch...especially on the defensive side of the ball
Waw that s amazing to see these guys doing SO well in the US. Do you guys know other African-born players in college football in the past couple of years??? I d love to know about these guys!