NFL Academy athlete Emmanuel Okoye has become the latest player to graduate from the program and join a Division I U.S. college, after committing to the University of Tennessee.

Okoye, aged 18, was born and grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. His football journey began after being discovered by NFL Legend Osi Umenyiora and his "The Uprise" program scouts. He was invited to attend the inaugural "The Uprise" football talent identification camp in Abuja, Nigeria in 2022. After impressing, he was invited to NFL Africa’s talent identification camp held in Ghana in 2022, with his performance earning him a place at the NFL Academy in Loughborough, UK.

The NFL Academy, an elite player pathway program which began in September 2019, is a major initiative by the NFL, which aims to use football to create life-changing opportunities for young people all around the world.

The announcement highlights the ongoing success of the NFL Academy, which currently supports 59 student-athletes from nine different countries (Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Nigeria, Sweden, and the UK). Since its inception, more than 40 students have secured college football scholarships in the U.S., with 15 NFL Academy alumni set to play college football in the 2023–24 academic year.

Okoye has committed to the University of Tennessee, where International Player Pathway program alumni and German-native Jakob Johnson also attended, will enroll in June and play college football in the upcoming academic year.

“I am thankful for all the support from everyone who is part of the NFL Academy program, my mentor Osi Umenyiora, and all those who have contributed to this special moment for me,” said Okoye. “This is just the beginning of my journey, and I will continue to work hard to grow and learn every day. Whilst I will always be part of the NFL Academy family, I am excited to join the University of Tennessee, and to continue to develop as a player and a young man. I hope I will make my family proud, and that starts with an elite education – which was key to my decision-making – and I can’t wait to take this opportunity and give it everything I have.”

“What an incredible moment for Emmanuel. His athleticism, natural sporting talent, and outstanding personal character make him an impressive prospect for the game,” said Umenyiora, two-time Super Bowl champion born in the UK to Nigerian parents. “I am thrilled to see him commit to the University of Tennessee, and I am so proud of his journey in the sport to date. Increasing the number of international athletes in the league is a long-term strategic priority for the NFL, and there is a wealth of talent from around the world who will make a significant impact on the game in the years to come.”

The NFL Academy offers talented student-athletes aged 16-19, under the guidance of a professional coaching team, with a pathway to combine their full-time education alongside a transformative life skills program and intensive sports training.

Based at Loughborough’s world-renowned center of sporting excellence in the UK, and in partnership with Loughborough College and Loughborough University, the program promotes world-class performance and the development of elite player pathways, supporting student-athletes with NFL best practices and resources.

Okoye represented the NFL Academy in three games at defensive end and on special teams. He played in games against IMG Academy, Scotland U19’s and Nottingham University. During the NFL Academy Combine, he had a 45.5” vertical jump and an 11’3” broad jump – both of which are NFL Combine records for his position at defensive end. 

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