Aramide Olanyian and Other Notable Nigerian Football Players

Submitted by naijablue on September 23rd, 2009 at 9:59 PM

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:
   -Chukwuma Offor-DB
   -Louis Nzegwu-DE
   -Damola Ogundipe-RB
   -Derrick Onwuachi-DE
3.) OHIO STATE (1)
   -Chimdi Chekwa-CB
4.) PENN STATE (1)
   -Ollie Ogbu-DT
5.) ILLINOIS (1)
   -Wisdom Onyegbule-DL
   -David Nwabuisi-LB
7.) PURDUE (1)
   -Nnamdi Ezenwa-LB

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!



OSUMC Wolverine

September 23rd, 2009 at 10:07 PM ^

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.


September 23rd, 2009 at 10:22 PM ^

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!


September 24th, 2009 at 1:05 AM ^

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.

Gerald R. Ford

September 24th, 2009 at 6:21 AM ^

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?


September 24th, 2009 at 9:18 AM ^

Also Harry Newman, who was an incredible person, but an even more incredible quarterback. From Wikipedia:

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?


September 24th, 2009 at 12:55 PM ^

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.


September 24th, 2009 at 8:56 AM ^

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.


September 24th, 2009 at 9:30 AM ^

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.


September 24th, 2009 at 10:11 AM ^

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?


September 24th, 2009 at 6:45 PM ^

Fantastic thread - great to have pride in your background. Just like having pride in ex-Michigan athletes that have gone pro. If I don't know which team to support I go with whoever has more guys with a Michigan connection. Just wondering if Misopogon or someone else will start a list of great "members of the tribe" that played for Michigan. Benny Friedman starts the list.


September 23rd, 2009 at 10:18 PM ^

"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.


September 23rd, 2009 at 10:29 PM ^

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.


September 23rd, 2009 at 10:52 PM ^

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).

Tim Waymen

September 23rd, 2009 at 11:52 PM ^

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?


September 24th, 2009 at 2:09 AM ^

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.


September 24th, 2009 at 8:13 PM ^

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.

Raback Omaba

September 24th, 2009 at 9:38 PM ^

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.


October 5th, 2009 at 8:36 PM ^

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!