International Player Pathway Program

The International Player Pathway Program (IPPP) is a scheme run by the National Football League (NFL) to increase the number of non-American and Canadian players in the NFL. The program was formed as part of the NFL's strategy to grow globally as it provides athletes with the opportunity to play in the league which will increase the pool of talent and ultimately drive fan growth globally.[1]

BackgroundEdit

The International Player Pathway Program was not the first initiative by the NFL to introduce foreign talent into its pool of players and neither is it, as yet, the longest running. The first such program was the NFL International Development Practice Squad Program that ran between 2004 and 2009. Following a short hiatus of seven years there was a single incarnation of NFL Undiscovered in 2016 and building immediately on the success of that trial the IPPP was instituted in 2017.[2][3][4]

NFL International Development Practice Squad ProgramEdit

The NFL International Practice Squad Program was an initiative run by the NFL in which selected players from outside the United States or Canada were assigned to the practice squads of NFL teams. The program began in 2004[5] and was concluded five years later in 2009 but during that time many players from a multitude of nations[6] were given the opportunity to play in the NFL or other professional football leagues like the Arena Football League, the United Football League and the Canadian Football League.

NFL UndiscoveredEdit

Two British-born former NFL players Aden Durde (NFLUK head of football development) and two-time Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora were concerned that there were no clear pathways into the NFL for players who had not gone to high-school and/or college in the United States, and, as a result, the NFL was potentially missing out on some exceptional players. Wanting to remedy this, in early 2016, they used their personal and professional contracts from their time in the NFL to create a training program and to set-up meetings and try-outs with NFL teams for a small number of specially selected football players. These players' potential had been scouted primarily by watching YouTube videos.[8] The initial group of players all lived, worked and played amateur football in Europe. At the time, the program was not yet officially named the International Player Pathway, but it was fully sanctioned and supported by the NFL. Additionally, the League had commissioned a mini-series documentary to be made, called NFL Undiscovered, that followed the participants of the program.

In 2017 the IPP was implemented with systems for choosing which division sponsors the program annually, as well as special regulations applying to the teams being assigned the players. The program has grown every year since its launch and, as of 2020, more than half (19 of 32) of all NFL teams have signed international players as a direct result of the program.

Athlete eligibility and applicationEdit

In 2017, potential applicants to NFL Undiscovered were asked to meet specific requirements and were advised to follow a particular application process.[9] Some of these criteria have either changed over time or there is some discretion applied during the selection process, as not all the athletes that have come through the program in the intervening years meet all of the following criteria.

  • age 24 or younger
  • out of high school (or equivalent) for at least four years
  • did not play American football at a US college
  • ability to speak English
  • not a citizen of the US or Canada
  • must be available and eligible to travel to the US for two months from the first week in March

Roster regulationsEdit

The NFL has specific regulations for players that sign through the IPP. The teams to which each IPP player is assigned are allowed 91 players[10] on their off-season rosters, one more than those teams that are not participating in the IPP that year. At the point when these rosters need to be cut to 53 (at the end of pre-season), the participating teams must decide the status of their IPP players.[11][12][13]

First, the team can keep their IPP player on their 53-man roster. If they waive the player, he goes through the NFL's waiver system, which allows him to be claimed by another team. If he clears waivers, the team can sign the player to their practice squad. If they do, they may elect to take an exemption for the IPP player, giving them an extra spot on their practice squad. If they utilize the exemption, that player cannot be signed to the active roster of any team during the season. If the exemption is declined, the player is treated like any other practice squad player, and can be promoted to a team's active roster. If the player chooses to sign with a team other than the one to which he was assigned, that team may not claim the exemption.

ParticipantsEdit

Players who have participated in NFL Undiscovered and the NFL International Player Pathway program
NFL
season
Player Nationality Previous
sport(s)
Sponsoring
NFL division
NFL team
signed to
Football
position
Resulting contract(s)
2016 Anthony Dablé [14]   France Football NFL Undiscovered New York Giants Wide receiver 2016 – signed as a free agent then released during final roster cuts[15] first player signed in the NFL from NFL Undiscovered
2017 – signed with Atlanta Falcons and again released at the end of pre-season[16]
Harry Innis   UK Football Tight end [17]
Moritz Böhringer [18]   Germany Football Minnesota Vikings Wide receiver 2016drafted (R6#180) spent season on 10-man practice squad, first player drafted in the NFL from NFL Undiscovered[19]
2017 – waived by Vikings in September[20]
2017 Alex Gray[21]   UK Rugby union NFC South Atlanta Falcons Tight end 2017 – 11th member of practice squad
2018 – signed to practice squad
2019 – on 2-year futures contract to 2020[16]
Alex Jenkins[22]   UK Football New Orleans Saints Defensive end 2017 – 11th member of practice squad
2018 – reserve/futures contract in January and to practice squad[23]
Eric Nzeocha[24]   Germany Football Tampa Bay Buccaneers Linebacker 2017 – 11th member of practice squad
2018 – reserve/futures contract in January and to practice squad[25]
Efe Obada[26]   UK Football Carolina Panthers Defensive end 2017 – 11th member of practice squad
2018 – reserve/futures contract in January and to practice squad, first player to make an NFL 53-man active roster from IPP and play in a regular season game (Sep-23-2018 versus Cincinnati)[27][28]
2019 – signed 1-year contract[29]
2018 Moritz Böhringer [18]   Germany Football AFC North Cincinnati Bengals Tight end 2018 – 11th member of practice squad and reserve/futures contract
2019 – again assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)[30][31]
Christopher Ezeala [32]   Germany Football Baltimore Ravens Running back 2018 – 11th member of practice squad
2019 – re-signed[31]
Jordan Mailata [33]   Australia Rugby league Philadelphia Eagles Offensive tackle 2018drafted 2018 (R7#233) first player drafted in the NFL from IPP signed 4-year contract, spent season on 53-man roster, injured reserve in December[34]
2021 Signed four year contract extension with the Eagles
Tigie Sankoh [35]   UK Football Cleveland Browns Defensive back 2018 – 11th member of practice squad
2019 – signed to reserve/futures list in January[36][31]
Christian Scotland-Williamson[37]   UK Rugby union Pittsburgh Steelers Tight end 2018 – 11th member of practice squad, terminated in September[38]
2019 – re-signed[31]
2019 David Bada   Germany Football AFC East Defensive tackle
Moubarak Djeri [39]   Germany Football Defensive end
Valentine Holmes [40]   Australia Rugby league New York Jets Running back 2019 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt) and released at the end of the season.[41] Returned to Australia and NRL to play for North Queensland Cowboys[42]
Jakob Johnson [43]   Germany Football New England Patriots Fullback 2019 – signed to 10-man practice squad then promoted to 53-man roster, first IPP player in 2019 class to be activated and play in a regular season game (September 22, 2019, versus Jets)[44][45] then put on injured reserve list
2020
2021 – re-signed[46]
Durval Queiroz Neto [47]   Brazil Football Miami Dolphins Defensive tackle 2019 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)
2020 – signed futures contract[48]
Máximo González Sánchez   Mexico Football Linebacker
Christian Wade [49]   UK Rugby union Buffalo Bills Running back 2019 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)
2020 – signed reserve/future contract[50]
2020 Isaac Alarcón   Mexico Football NFC East Dallas Cowboys Offensive tackle 2020 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)[51]
Otávio Amorim   Brazil Football Offensive lineman [52]
David Bada   Germany Football Washington Football Team Defensive tackle 2020 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)[51]
Leo Krafft   Norway Football Defensive end [52]
Matt Leo   Australia Football Philadelphia Eagles Defensive end 2020 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)[51]
Boqiao Li   China Football Linebacker [52]
Chris Mulumba   Finland Football Defensive end [52]
Sandro Platzgummer   Austria Football New York Giants Running back 2020 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)[51]
2021 – signed by Giants[53]
Antoni Podgórski   Poland Football Wide receiver [52]
Bernhard Seikovits   Austria Football Tight end [52]
2021 Aaron Donkor   Germany Football NFC West Seattle Seahawks Defensive end 2021 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)[54]
Alfredo Gutiérrez   Mexico Football San Francisco 49ers Offensive lineman 2021 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)[54]
Taku Lee   Japan Football Running back [55]
Yoann Miangue   France Taekwondo, football Defensive end [55]
Leonel Misangumukini   Austria Football Defensive end [55]
Adedayo Odeleye   UK Football Defensive end [55]
Ayo Oyelola   UK Football Linebacker [55]
Maximilian Pircher   Italy Handball, football Los Angeles Rams Offensive lineman 2021 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)[54]
Sammis Reyes   Chile Basketball Washington Football Team Tight end 2021 – signed as a free agent[56]
Bernhard Seikovits   Austria Football Arizona Cardinals Tight end 2021 – assigned to roster as IPP (roster exempt)[54]
Lone Toailoa   New Zealand Rugby union, football Defensive end [55]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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