Seven athletes from five countries have been showcasing their talents in front of scouts from all 32 clubs at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training facility during the NFL International Player Pathway Pro Day on April 1.
The players have been training alongside NFL veterans and draft hopefuls in Florida at the IMG Academy.
Instituted in 2017, the program aims to provide elite international athletes the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, improve their skills, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster.
David Bada (Germany), Moubarak Djeri (Germany), Valentine Holmes (Australia), Jakob Johnson (Germany), Dural Neto (Brazil), Maximo Sanchez (Mexico) and Christian Wade (United Kingdom) all worked out at the event in hopes of being signed as a free agent or being selected for a 2019 practice squad position as part of the program.
Holmes and Wade were both top rugby players in their respective countries and retired from the sport to join the International Player Pathway Program.
The on-field workouts were followed by an opportunity for clubs to conduct informal interviews with all participating players.
For the 2019 NFL season, the AFC East has been chosen at random as the division that receive international players as a part of the International Player Development Program should they not be signed to free agent contracts. The AFC East follows the NFC South (2017) and AFC North (2018) as divisions participating in this program. At the conclusion of training camp, players will be eligible for an international player practice squad exemption on an AFC East team with teams being given an exemption for an eleventh practice squad member - ineligible to be activated during the season.
A closer look at the 2019 NFL International Player Pathway Program Participants:
DAVID BADA, Defensive End, (Germany), Age: 23:
Played in German Football League's top division for the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns. Had previously played for the Ingolstadt Dukes where he developed as a pass rusher.
MOUBARAK DJERI, Defensive Tackle, (Germany), Age: 22
Born in Togo and moved to Germany in 2007. Played for the Cologne Crocodiles of the German Football League. Spent five seasons with the club before trying out for the Arizona Cardinals where he was signed in 2017 and participated in OTA's before being released prior to training camp.
VALENTINE HOLMES, Running Back/Wide Receiver/Kick Returner, (Australia), Age: 23:
A former professional rugby league player from Australia's National Rugby League. Signed his first contract with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at 17 and made his professional debut with the club at the age of 19. Played the winger and fullback positions. Represented Australia in the 2017 Rugby World Cup and scored five tries (touchdowns) in the quarterfinals. The following game, he set a record with six tries in the semifinals.
JAKOB JOHNSON, Fullback, (Germany), Age: 24
Played for the Stuttgart Scorpions of the German Football League before moving to Jacksonville. Played one season of high school football in the United States and was recruited to continue his career at the University of Tennessee. Although recruited as a linebacker, transitioned to a tight end during his sophomore season. Attended Tennessee for four years.
DURVAL NETO, Defensive Tackle, (Brazil), Age: 25
Played domestically in Brazil for the past four seasons on the two best teams in Brazil. A judo champion prior to playing football, he is known for his tremendous athletic ability and a willingness to learn.
MAXIMO SANCHEZ, Linebacker, (Mexico), Age: 25:
Has played in multiple domestic leagues in Mexico and was selected to represent the country for Team World against the USA U19 team. Played for Tech Monterrey, one of the best university programs in Mexico. Transitioned to outside linebacker following his time as a 4-3 defensive end.
CHRISTIAN WADE, Running Back/Kick Returner, (England), Age: 27
Represented the English National Rugby Team at the U16, U18, U20 and senior levels. Was selected to the British and Irish Lions squad, the highest honor for a rugby player. His 82 Premiership Rugby tries (touchdowns) ranks third on the league's all-time list. A projected running back, he has outstanding athletic ability and a versatile skill set.
Previous participants in the International Player Pathway Program include:
MORITZ BOEHRINGER, Tight End/Wide Receiver (Germany), Age: 25: Cincinnati Bengals
In 2016, Boehringer was selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings, becoming the first player to be drafted directly from European football. He spent the 2016 season on the Vikings practice squad. Boehringer is currently on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad as part of the 2018 International Player Pathway Program.
JORDAN MAILATA, Tackle (Australia), Age: 21: Philadelphia Eagles
The 2018 NFL Draft culminated an exciting time for Mailata, a past program participant. The Samoan-born Australian former professional rugby league player for the South Sydney Rabbitohs was drafted in the seventh round by the Philadelphia Eagles (thereby making him ineligible for the International Player Pathway Program). Converted to football full-time early in 2018, the 6-8, 350-pounder impressed NFL scouts at various workouts with his strength, footwork and athleticism, and continued his football journey with the Eagles during the 2018 season as the youngest player on their roster.
EFE OBADA, Defensive End (UK), Age: 26: Carolina Panthers
Obada was raised in London after arriving from the Netherlands at age 10. He signed as a free agent for the Dallas Cowboys in 2015 after playing only five games of amateur football with the London Warriors. He played in the preseason for the Cowboys and spent part of the 2015 season on the club's practice squad. He has since had spells on the rosters of the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons before joining the Carolina Panthers practice squad as part of the 2017 International Player Pathway Program. In 2018, Obada become the first player from the NFL International Pathway program to make a 53-man roster. In Week 3 against the Cincinnati Bengals, Obada played his first regular season game, earning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his one-sack, one-interception performance.