NEW YORK (GIANTS WIRE) - Many NFL teams are spanning the globe these days to find players and you can count the New York Giants as one of them.
On Friday, they announced the signing of Roy Mbaeteka is a 6-foot-9, 320-pound offensive tackle from Nigeria who was mentored by former Giants great Osi Umenyiora in the NFL Africa initiative, which is part of the league’s International Player Pathway program (IPP).
Mbaeteka has no high school or college experience but the Giants are hoping he can be molded into a competitive player much the way the Philadelphia Eagles did with Jordan Mailata, a former Australian rugby star who is now a starter at tackle on their offensive line.
“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 told Giants.com in a phone conversation from his home in London.
“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, very athletic. He’s built to play offensive tackle in the league. In fact, he reminds me quite a bit of Kareem McKenzie. He has the same temperament. He’s very smart, but he’s a very athletic player.”
Osi has been very active in developing international talent for the NFL, especially in Africa. He downplayed his role in bringing the Giants and Mbaeteka together.
“A lot of people think this was me, but I had nothing to do with this,” Umenyiora said. “The Giants decided they were going to fly him in. They did this on their own. They saw him, they liked him, they flew him in [on Thursday], and he blew them away. They offered him a contract and here we are. For it to be the Giants of all teams, it means the world to me, it really does.
“What the Giants have done here is truly hard to put into words. There are so many people in Nigeria and in Africa who are going to see this and right now they’re going to have hope. Before, they were hopeless. They’re going to see this as hope and they’re going to start working and working toward something, however unrealistic it is. At least now, they will see that it is possible. They’ve changed the world, they really have.”
“If you have the physical attributes, you can make that transition rather easily. And I can tell you in Africa there’s hundreds of thousands of people who have those attributes who just need an opportunity and we’re going to provide it for them.”