At a time when the NFL wants to get more people from other countries interested in pro football, the best strategy could be getting more people from other countries playing pro football.
As recently explained by Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com, the NFL has seen a gradual increase in the addition of foreign players, with 10 players born outside the U.S. drafted last month. Five of them, including fifth overall pick Ziggy Ansah, were picked in the first two rounds.
Since all played college football in the U.S., it means the NFL found these players in the traditional way. At some point, the NFL could be at the front lines of searching for players beyond our borders.
“We may be at the tip of the iceberg with this,” Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff told Marvez. “Some very talented athletes from other countries as they learn our game and nuances will begin to excel more than others have in the past.
“I think we’ve become a lot more open-minded to the fact we will invite players outside of our country where there was once a stigma attached about not having a true understanding of football. We now say that while they may not have a true understanding yet, the potential athleticism and phenotype suggest there’s some serious upside.”
The goal becomes finding large men who can do what NFL players need to do, and then teaching them how to do it. “There are big, fast, strong athletes with upside to grow into NFL players,” Dimitroff said. “These guys may someday be coming in waves.”
Of course, getting more people in other countries interested in football will result in more NFL body types finding the game, instead of the game having to find them. As more foreign players make their way to America, more will become aware of the path. Also, as more NFL football is played in places other than America, more will become aware of the game.
One major step in that direction would be the recognition of football by the International Olympic Committee. Per Marvez, a ruling on the International Federation of American Football’s pending application is expected by June. Eventually, a seven-on-seven version of football could become the global version of the game.
Whether it’s seven or 11 or any other number, the more exposure the game with the uniquely shaped ball gets in other countries, the more potential NFL players can be found from other places.
Of course, those who balk at the NFL taking “our” game to other countries will surely complain about players from other countries taking NFL jobs. But the obsession with winning will take coaches and General Managers anywhere for potential players, proving once again that a system based exclusively on merit is the best way to ensure diversity and inclusion.