Seven athletes from five countries will compete for a spot in the 2019 International Player Pathway Program. Started in 2017, the program offers elite international athletes the opportunity to improve their skills and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster.
This year’s pool of international talent is broader than ever before, with players from Brazil and Mexico joining athletes from Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom.
The international players will begin training in the United States next month alongside NFL veterans and draft hopefuls in Florida under the supervision of IMG Academy coaches, including running back coach Earnest Byner, offensive line coach Paul Dunn, linebacker coach Pepper Johnson and wide receiver coach Larry Kirksey.
The athletes will have the opportunity to showcase their talents to NFL scouts in March in hopes of signing as a free agent or earning a 2019 practice squad position.
One of the NFL’s eight divisions, to be chosen at random, will receive international players should they not be signed to free agent contracts. At the conclusion of training camp, players will be eligible for an international player practice squad exemption. The exemption gives teams space for an eleventh practice squad member, though the player is ineligible to be activated during the season.
Players taking part in the 2019 program:
David Bada, Defensive End, Germany, Age: 23
Bada currently plays in the German Football League’s top division for the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns. He previously played for the Ingolstadt Dukes, where he developed as a pass rusher.
Moubarak Djeri, Defensive Tackle, Germany, Age: 22
Born in Togo and moved to Germany in 2007, Djeri played for the Cologne Crocodiles of the German Football League. He spent five seasons with the club before trying out for the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. He signed with the Cardinals and participated in OTAs before being released the day before training camp.
Valentine Holmes, Running Back/Wide Receiver/Kick Returner, Australia, Age: 23
A professional rugby player from Australia’s National Rugby League, Holmes signed his first contract with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at age 17 and made his professional debut at the age of 19. He represented Australia in the 2017 Rugby World Cup at the winger and fullback positions.
Jakob Johnson, Fullback, Germany, Age: 24
Johnson played for the Stuttgart Scorpions of the German Football League before moving to the United States. He was recruited by the University of Tennessee after playing one season of high school football. Originally recruited as a linebacker, Johnson transitioned to a tight end during his sophomore season.
Durval Neto, Defensive Tackle, Brazil, Age: 25
Neto has played in Brazil for the past four seasons on two of the country’s best teams. The former judo champion prior has been praised for his great athletic ability and willingness to learn.
Maximo Sanchez, Linebacker, Mexico, Age: 25
Sanchez has played in multiple domestic leagues in Mexico. He was selected to represent the country for Team World against the USA U19 team. He currently plays for Tech Monterrey, one of the best university programs in Mexico.
Christian Wade, Running Back/Kick Returner, England, Age: 27
Wade represented the English National Rugby Team at the U16, U18 and U20 levels and was selected to the British and Irish Lions squad, the highest honor as a rugby player. His 82 Premiership Rugby tries (touchdowns) ranks third on the league’s all-time list.