The Giants signed 6-9, 320-pound offensive tackle Roy Mbaeteka, a native of Nigeria with no high school or college football experience. Mbaeteka is part of the NFL’s International Pathway Program and was a participant in the league’s London scouting combine.
He was also mentored by former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who is part of the league’s international office in scouting and recruiting players.
“Once you see him, you know he’s physically imposing, and in a year or two, if you immerse him in football culture, he’s going to be fantastic,” Umenyiora said via a team-issued statement of the 22-year-old Mbaeteka .
“The Giants took a chance. Not much of a chance, I think. When you see him working, you’re going to know what he’s about. He is big, strong, physical, extremely intelligent, and very athletic. He’s built to play offensive tackle in the league.
“In fact, he reminds me quite a bit of Kareem McKenzie (a former tackle who, like Umenyiora, played on the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII and XLVI teams). He has the same temperament. He’s very smart, but he’s a very athletic player. “
Umenyiora, born in London (where he currently resides) and who spent part of his youth in Nigeria, was a second-round draft pick by the Giants out of Troy University in 2003.
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In his role with the league office, he is trying to help it expand internationally about finding player talent, an effort that last year expanded to Africa via NFL Africa, which is part of the league’s International Player Pathway program (IPP).
“I realized there are so many incredible athletes over there – I’m talking a hundred times better than I was as an athlete,” Umenyiora said. “And they have no chance of bettering their lives, no chance to do something constructive with their lives because of the situation over there.
“In America and in the West, you have opportunities for these guys to do something with all the incredible talent that they have. I recognized that, and I decided I was going to start a program to help get these guys opportunities in America. We ‘ve had camps in South Africa, Ghana, Senegal.I have scouts in these locations, and they’re looking for the best athletes we can find, and once we find them, we bring them to a location, and we start to train them. “
Mbaeteka was first spotted by Umenyiora at a camp in Nigeria in May 2021 and was chosen as one of three players to train at the NFL Academy in London in October. Three months later, Mbaeteka was one of 13 players selected to compete for a spot in the 2022 International Player Pathway program. He also received an opportunity to work with former NFL center LeCharles Bentley developing his craft as an offensive lineman.
The NFL held a showcase for the international players in Arizona, where Giants scout Jeremy Breit discovered Mbaeteka. Umenyiora, who has kept tabs on Mbaeteka’s journey, believes that the 22-year-old could find the type of success that Australian native Jordan Mailata, the Eagles starting left tackle, has found.
“If you have the physical attributes, you can make that transition rather easily,” Umenyiora said. “And I can tell you in Africa, there are hundreds of thousands of people who have those attributes who just need an opportunity, and we’re going to provide it for them.”
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