Since the UK plays a different type of football than the US, the list of British NFL players is a little short.
However, the influence of American football in the UK is undoubtedly growing. It’s gotten to a point where fans of American football in the UK can argue about the best NFL London games of all time and the best UK NFL players.
British NFL players
Granted, there has never been a bonafide superstar in the NFL with UK ties. But players born in the UK have slowly but surely made their way to the NFL and made an impact, sometimes without fans realizing that they aren’t American. To prove our point, let’s take a closer look at some of the best British NFL players the world has ever known.
Born in London, Osi Umenyiora’s parents moved back to their native Nigeria when he was seven years old. Eventually, he would move to the U.S. for his final two years of high school and then play college football at Troy, drawing enough attention for the Giants to draft him in the second round.
He didn’t disappoint the G-Men, going to two Pro Bowls and being a part of the team’s two Super Bowl wins over the Patriots. Umenyiora even led the NFL in forced fumbles in 2010 and is arguably the best football player to come out of the UK.
Lawrence Tynes was born in Scotland and grew up playing soccer before trying out as a placekicker. He bounced around between the Chiefs, NFL Europe, and the CFL before sticking with the Giants between 2007 and 2012, earning two Super Bowl rings in the process.
Tynes also led the NFC in scoring in 2012, which would be his penultimate season in the NFL.
The London-born Jay Ajayi had an NFL career that was short but sweet. He was overlooked as a fifth-round pick in 2015 but made the Pro Bowl in his second season.
A year later, he was traded to the Eagles in the middle of the season, helping them down the stretch and rushing for 57 yards in their Super Bowl win over the Patriots. However, injuries would get the best of Ajayi, as he only played five seasons in the NFL, rushing for over 2,500 yards with 14 total touchdowns.
Graham Gano has been a reliable kicker in the NFL for so long that few fans realize he was actually born in Scotland.
Of course, he grew up in Florida and kicked at Florida State, winning the prestigious Lou Groza Award in 2008. It took him a few years, but Gano finally found a long-term home in Carolina, kicking for the Panthers from 2012 to 2019, earning a Pro Bowl spot in 2017. In 2019, Gano signed with the Giants, joining a long line of UK-born players to play for the G-Men.
Jack Crawford was born in London and spent most of his childhood there, even attending school with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe.
After moving to the U.S., Crawford was a three-sport star in high school, excelling most at football and going to Penn State. He was a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions and a fifth-round pick. He’s never been a star in the NFL and has bounced around with five different teams. But Crawford has played well enough to stay in the NFL for 10-plus years.
While he was born in Nigeria, Efe Obada was illegally trafficked and left homeless in London at age 10. It wasn’t an easy upbringing, but he eventually made his way to the British American Football Association National Leagues and earned a try-out with the Cowboys.
He spent some time on practice squads before finally getting a chance in the NFL with the Panthers in 2017 thanks to the NFL’s International Player Pathway program. Obada has been a rotational defensive end during his time in the NFL, although the fact that he’s there at all is amazing.
Jermaine Eluemunor was born in London and played mostly rugby and cricket before watching an NFL game at Wembley Stadium on TV.
That put him on a path that eventually led to playing college football at Texas A&M and the Ravens drafting him in the fifth round in 2017. The offensive lineman has rarely been able to carve out a starting spot in the NFL. But he’s stuck around for more than a handful of years as a backup.
Julian Okwara was actually raised in Nigeria, although he was born in London while his mother was visiting relatives. He ended up moving to the U.S. when he was in third grade, eventually playing at Notre Dame.
The Lions drafted the linebacker in the third round of the 2020 draft. Okwara has spent the early part of his career backing up his brother Romeo, who was born in Nigeria and also played at Notre Dame.
After being born in St Albans, England, Josh Mauro moved to Texas when he was just three years old, as his father had been in England for work when he was born. That gave Mauro a traditional American upbringing, which included being one of the best high school football players in the country.
Despite a standout college career at Stanford, Mauro went undrafted and has had to fight to keep a job in the NFL every step of the way. However, he’s proven to be a suitable backup despite jumping around between the Cardinals, Giants, Raiders, and Jaguars.