Discover the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program, a unique initiative aimed at increasing the number of non-American and Canadian players in the NFL.
Learn about its history, operation, and success stories and how it contributes to the global growth of American Football.
The NFL is a global league, and the number of international players in the league is on the rise. In 2023, over 100 international players are currently on NFL rosters, representing over 20 countries.
As the NFL continues to grow internationally, the demand for NFL odds is also on the rise. Sportsbooks around the world now offer them, and fans can bet on their favorite teams and players. This has created a new revenue stream for this big event, and it has also helped to raise the profile of the league around the world.
The International Player Pathway Program (IPPP) was established by the NFL in 2017 as a means to increase the number of non-American and Canadian players in the NFL.
The program was part of the NFL’s strategy to grow globally and provides athletes with the opportunity to play in the league, which helps to increase the talent pool and fan growth globally.
This program was not the first initiative by the NFL to introduce foreign talent into its pool of players, with similar initiatives dating back to 2004. However, the IPPP has grown every year since its inception, with more than half of all NFL teams having signed international players as a direct result of the program as of 2020. The program consists of three phases:
- Evaluation: Players are evaluated at regional combines held in Europe, Australia, and Mexico.
- Development: Players who are selected to participate in the development phase are invited to train at NFL training facilities in the United States.
- Opportunity: Players who successfully complete the development phase are invited to participate in minicamps and training camps with NFL teams.
Potential applicants to the program need to meet certain criteria, including being 24 years old or younger, being out of high school for at least four years, not having played American football at a US college, being able to speak English, not being a citizen of the US or Canada, and being available and eligible to travel to the US for two months from the first week in March.
The NFL has specific regulations for players that sign through the IPPP. The teams to which each IPP player is assigned are allowed 91 players on their off-season rosters, one more than those teams that are not participating in the IPPP that year. At the end of pre-season, these rosters need to be cut to 53, and the participating teams must decide the status of their IPP players.
In 2023, eight players were added to NFL rosters through the IPP. This included one Australian, one French, and six Nigerian players. This year, 13 talented young athletes were invited to join the 2023 IPP program following an NFL International Combine in London, England.
The 2023 IPP cohort spent 10 weeks at an intensive training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, earlier this year, with opportunities to showcase their talents in front of NFL club scouts at a pro day at the University of South Florida ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.
The NFC North and the AFC West divisions were chosen to receive IPP players in a random draw and become the seventh and eighth division to participate, respectively
The NFL International Player Pathway program is a great opportunity for international players to pursue their dreams of playing in the NFL. The program provides players with the resources and training they need to compete at the highest level.
Here are some of the challenges that international players face when trying to make it to the NFL:
- The language barrier: Many international players do not speak English fluently, which can make it difficult to communicate with coaches and teammates.
- The cultural differences: The NFL is a very American sport, and the culture of the NFL can be very different from the culture of other countries.
- The competition: The competition for a spot on an NFL roster is very fierce, and international players often have to compete against American players who have been playing football since they were children.
Despite the challenges, there are many benefits to being an international player in the NFL. International players can experience a new culture, make new friends, and play the game they love at the highest level.
Here are some of the success stories of international players who have made it to the NFL:
- David Bada: Bada is a German defensive tackle who was drafted by the New York Giants in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL Draft. He played college football at Temple University.
- Jordan Mailata: Mailata is an Australian offensive tackle who was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He played college rugby at the University of California, Berkeley.
- Efe Obada: Obada is a Nigerian defensive end who was signed by the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He played college football at Temple University.
These are just a few examples of the many international players who have made it to the NFL. The NFL International Player Pathway program is a great opportunity for international players to pursue their dreams of playing in the NFL. The program provides players with the resources and training they need to compete at the highest level.
Here are some tips for international players who are trying to make it to the NFL:
- Learn English: This is essential for communicating with coaches, teammates, and the media.
- Research the NFL: Learn about the history of the league, the rules of the game, and the different positions.
- Train hard: International players need to be in top physical condition to compete at the NFL level.
- Be patient: It takes time and hard work to make it to the NFL. Don’t give up on your dream.
The NFL is a great league with a lot of opportunities for international players. If you have the talent and the drive, you can make it to the NFL.