Meet DE Alex Jenkins who joined the Saints practice squad as part of a new International Player Pathway program.
Four teams will carry an additional overseas player on their practice squads during the 2017 season as part of a new International Player Pathway program, the NFL announced today.
Teams from the NFC South division will each be given an exemption for an eleventh practice squad member – ineligible to be activated during the season – with three of the players selected coming from the UK and one from Germany. The NFC South was chosen to receive the international players in a random draw.
The players include former England rugby star Alex Gray (who will join the Atlanta Falcons); recent college players Alex Jenkins (New Orleans Saints) and Eric Nzeocha (Tampa Bay Buccaneers); and defensive end Efe Obada (Carolina Panthers), who was originally signed by the Dallas Cowboys in 2015.
"This is an important part of the league's overall strategy to grow internationally," said NFL Executive Vice President of International & Events Mark Waller. "We are building this pathway program to provide international athletes with the opportunity to play in the league, which will increase the pool of talent, inspire others and ultimately drive fan growth."
ALEX JENKINS, Defensive End (UK), Age: 24 – New Orleans Saints
Born and raised in Bath, England, he began playing football at the Bath City Academy and for the Bristol Aztecs, earning a spot on the Great Britain youth team. Having been selected to participate in an all-star high school camp in Virginia, he earned a scholarship to play college football at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. He was a three-year starter as defensive end at UIW, posting 3.5 sacks in his senior year.
"This is a chance to develop and become a player in the NFL," Jenkins said. "It has been a pretty intense time. It feels too good to be true. I always thought I would be trying to do this on my own until NFL International found me. The fact that the Saints will be playing in London this season [vs Miami Dolphins at Wembley Stadium on October 1] makes it even more exciting for me."