Nottingham Student Taking NFL Pathway

Let’s talk American Football, and the NFL, well, the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program to be precise, and the recent addition, on the 2022 intake, of former University of Nottingham Law graduate, Ayo Oyelola.

As one of four players to be allocated, into the AFC South, program, Stateside, Oyelola will spend the offseason in the training camp of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who play at the TIAA Bank Field Stadium, in Jacksonville, Florida.

Alongside defensive back (DB), Oyelola, who is Essex born, is that of defensive lineman (DL), Adebayo Odeleye (former Loughborough University, now Houston Texans), Germany defensive back (DB), Marcel Dabo (Indianapolis Colts), and Netherlands tight end (TE), Thomas Odukoya (Tennessee Titans), the quartet looking to progress with their respective, NFL franchises, ahead of the new season later in the year.

The NFL, earlier this week, said of the recruitments that: “The AFC South was chosen to receive these players in a random draw and becomes the sixth division to participate in the program.

“This year’s class brings the total number of players that have been assigned to clubs through the program to 24.

“Since the program’s inception in 2017, more than 50 players from 18 countries have trained in the U.S.

“In addition to Mbaeteka and Ndubuisi, the program has also helped players such as Efe Obada (Washington Commanders), Jakob Johnson (Las Vegas Raiders), Jordan Mailata (Philadelphia Eagles) and Sammis Reyes (Washington Commanders) earn a place in the NFL after participating in the program’s training session.”

The Jaguars meanwhile added, in their statement, of Oyelola’s addition, that: “Oyelola, 5-11, 205, was introduced to football at the University of Nottingham, where he graduated from in 2020 with a law degree.

“The 23-year-old participated in the 2021 International Player Pathway training phase but was not allocated to a team.

“He spent last season with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, who eventually were crowned Grey Cup champions in December of last year.”

As for Oyelola himself, a little about his background.

An Essex native, the defensive back hadn’t always set out to play American Football, quite far from it, in fact his sporting background had seen him playing rugby, and running track, for his county, and, prior to the move to Nottingham, turned down a contract to play Association Football, with Ebbsfleet United, then of the Conference Premier Division (now residing in the National League North).

Although his first year in Nottingham was uneventful, sporting-wise, Oyelola was said to have generated interest, and inspiration, in America’s Game, from YouTube videos of running back Saquon Barkley, a graduate of Penn State, and resident of the New York Giants franchise since 2018.

To say he’s not looked back however would be an understatement, the Brit, unsuccessful in 2021, moved into the Canadian Football League (CFL) with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, gained experience, ahead of this years, successful, allocation.

Upon gaining initial selection, back in 2021, Oyelola, in an interview with the University (which you can read in full here), said that: “It’s a huge honour to be given an opportunity to compete for a spot on the NFL International Player Pathway program, I’m hugely excited to join a fantastic group of athletes as we develop our skills as we aim of making an NFL roster.

“Having never played American Football before studying at the University of Nottingham, I’m hugely grateful for the foundation in football that UoNAF (University of Nottingham American Football) gave me.

“The coaching staff is second to none, and they really pushed me to be the very best I could be – on and off the field – I’d especially like to thank Coach Mortimer, Coach Davies and Coach Scott for their leadership, coaching and friendship.

“I would also like to say a huge thank you to all my teammates for the help and support they gave; I’m fortunate to be part of a team who genuinely care about each other, and push each other to be successful.

“I’m excited to continue my football journey, and I can’t wait to get going. The real work starts now!”

Over a year on, and Oyelola’s NFL dreams are still alive, as he gets a shot at the Jaguars, they having posted a 3-14 losing record (fourth successive season), last time around – they last reached the post-season in 2017 when they won the AFC South, the Wildcard Playoff, and the Divisional Playoff, before losing, by four, to the New England Patriots, in the AFC Championship Game.

As for Oyelola himself, it is a case of knuckling down, immersing himself into the culture of an NFL franchise, and go through the motions of a pathway program that will see him be a part of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ roster until the end of training camp.

Upon the conclusion of said camp, he will then be eligible for international player practice squad exemption, granting the Jaguars an extra practice squad member, and it’ll be down to the players’ abilities, and his the eyes of his coaches, as to whatever happens next.

*Article provided by Peter Mann (Senior Correspondent).

*Main image @UoNSport Ayo Oyelola in the colours of Nottingham University.

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