Umenyiora has been integral to the NFL’s international growth since retiring from the league in 2014. The 12-year NFL veteran is one of the founders of NFL Africa and co-founder of The Uprise, a Nigeria-based football program with the aim of discovering future NFL prospects. Umenyiora believes Mbaeteka to be the first of many undiscovered Africans.
“I realized there were so many amazing athletes out there – I speak a hundred times better than I was as an athlete,” Umenyiora said. “And they have no chance to improve their lives, no chance to do anything constructive with their lives because of the situation there. In America and in the West, you have the opportunity for these guys to do something thing with all the amazing talent that I recognized that and decided that I was going to start a program to help these guys get opportunities in America We had camps in South Africa, Ghana, Senegal I have scouts in those places and they look for the best athletes we can find and once we find them we bring them to a place and we start training them.”
Born in London, Umenyiora lived in Nigeria from age 7 to 14 before coming to America and discovering his footballing talent as a teenager. A second-round pick by the University of Troy Giants, Umenyiora became a two-time Super Bowl champion in New York and finished his career fourth on the franchise’s all-time sack list (75.0).
After landing in New York conventionally in 2003, Umenyiora is now dedicated to helping teams find NFL-caliber talent through unconventional methods. Fittingly, it is his former team that trusts the 22-year-old Nigerian, and Umenyiora believes this will be the start of something big.
“A lot of people think it was me, but I had nothing to do with it,” Umenyiora said. “The Giants decided they were going to fly him in. They did it on their own. They saw him, they liked him, they flew him in yesterday and he hit them. They offered him a contract and here we are, be the giants of all teams, that means the world to me, it really does.
“What the Giants have done here is really hard to put into words. There are so many people in Nigeria and Africa who are going to see this and right now they are going to be hopeful. Before, they were hopeless. They’ll see it as hope and they’ll start working and working towards something, no matter how unrealistic it may be. At least now they’ll see it’s possible. They changed the world, they changed the world. really did.