USA, N.C – Winnipeg Blue Bomber LB Ayo Oyelola will become one of 13 athletes from nine different countries to join the NFL’s 2022 International Player Pathway program.
Instituted in 2017, the International Player Pathway Program(IPP) provides elite international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, improve their skills, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster.
Given the program’s success, the NFL widened its search for international talent, hosting combines in England and Mexico where 56 players from 16 different countries participated. Out of those 56 players, the league identified 13 top athletes from nine countries to participate in the 2022 program.
Players will begin training in the United States next month and will have the opportunity to showcase their talents to NFL scouts in March in hopes of being signed as a free agent or being selected for allocation to a practice squad for next season through the International Player Pathway program.
The International Player Pathway program is an important part of our ongoing efforts to help ensure the best athletes in the world are playing in the NFL – regardless of their country of origin,” said Damani Leech, NFL Chief Operating Officer of International. “We are excited to have players from around the world competing for a spot in the 2022 program.”
Ayo Oyelola is a 5’11 217lbs linebacker from Great Britain. He was the number 22 overall pick in the 2021 CFL Global Draft in April of 2021.
When Oyelola was 17 years old he had his first professional contract on the table with the Ebbsfleet United soccer team. Ultimately he decided to pursue a degree at the University of Nottingham. Initially, he wanted to put off sports completely until he completed his studies. This all changed when he saw a highlight on YouTube of New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley.
Saquon Barkley’s highlights just popped up on my screen one day,” Oyelola recalls. “My mind was blown and I said to myself that I want to be able to do what he does.”
Oyelola was a part of the Blue Bombers practiced squad for much of the 2021 season. He made his first Professional football debut in week 16 against the Calgary Stampeders. He played mostly on special teams and did not record any stats.
Notable players who have previously participated in the program are fullback Jacob Jhonson, offensive linemen Jordan Mailata, linebackers Efe Obada and tight end Sammis Reyes.
Jacob Johnson has spent three seasons with the New England Patriots where he appeared in 37 games(17 in the 2021 season). During his career, he recorded 13 receptions in 16 targets that lead him to total 83 receiving yards and one touchdown.
Jordan Mailata has spent four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles where he started 24 of 29 and played his 1,000th career snap this season.
Efe Obada is now in his fourth season in the NFL. His first three seasons with the Carolina Panthers and he is currently with Buffalo Bills playing defensive end. In his career, Obada played 52 games where he had 62 total tackles, 38 solo tackles, 11 sacks, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and one interception,
Sammis Reyes is in his first year with the Washington Football Team. He played in 11 of 17 games on defense for the 2021 season.
Oyelola will begin training in February to perform in front of NFL scout in March. The Journey that began due to a YouTube algorithm is now within his reach.
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