NFL-African talent search continues in Nigeria

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By Rory Carroll

(Reuters) – The NFL will hold its first talent identification camp in Nigeria this weekend as the league ramps up its search for prospective players in Africa following similar forays into Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

The three-day NFL Combine-style camp in Lagos will give 21 athletes from 10 African countries the opportunity to showcase their skills as they compete for invitations to programs that could see them make NFL rosters.

“We have 90 players of Nigerian descent in the NFL so going to Lagos was the next logical step,” twice Super Bowl champion and NFL Africa lead Osi Umenyiora told Reuters.

The league currently has more than 130 players of African descent – either born in Africa or first generation born in the U.S. – and Umenyiora said Nigeria could be the focal point for its recruitment efforts in Africa going forward.

Umenyiora, who was born in London and lived in Nigeria as a child before moving to Alabama as a teenager and seeing his NFL dreams come true, said the talent pool in Africa was too rich to ignore.

“It’s a global sport. You can’t just say it’s an American sport and the NFL has to have the best athletes from everywhere,” he said.

“Then what happens is people from these different countries start to follow the NFL because they’re seeing themselves represented on screen.

“That’s important for the NFL growth strategy and it’s important for the NFL to give more and more people opportunities.”

The camp will also feature a first-of-its-kind women’s flag football workout with U.S. scholarships available for top athletes.

Flag football looks similar to tackle football, with passing and receiving, but requires little of the protective equipment, making the sport more accessible.

“Tackle football is a very capital intensive sport and it becomes a real heavy lift to actually get all these different countries playing the game at a high level,” he said.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, editing by Ed Osmond)

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