The 16 NFL International Practice Squad Program players, whose football careers began with club and university teams in France, Japan, Germany, Mexico, Russia, Sweden and the UK are heading into Week 2 of NFL preseason action.
The initiative, which is in its fifth year, enhances the development of elite football talent from around the world. The 16 players from seven different IFAF (International Federation of American Football) member countries have earned positions on the practice squad rosters of teams in the AFC North, AFC West, NFC South and NFC West Divisions. They are eligible to undertake playing time only during the NFL preseason then will earn an exception on NFL team practice squads.
IFAF President Tommy Wiking said: ‚Every youngster who plays or watches American football dreams of playing in the NFL one day, no matter which country he comes from. This program gives some of the best international players from outside the United States that opportunity.
We are proud that they began their careers and developed their football skills by playing American football in countries that are members of IFAF.”
Among the highlights of the opening week of NFL preseason action, linebacker Carl-Johan Bjork from Sweden made 2 tackles and a pressured quarterback Matt Flynn into throwing an incompletion as the Cincinnati Bengals beat the Green Bay Packers 20:17.
Bjork, who came to prominence playing football for Taby Flyers and Stockholm Mean Machines, made his mark in the fourth quarter as the Bengals defense closed down a Packers comeback attempt.
Safety and Moscow native Sergey Ivanov made history as he recorded what is believed to be the first tackle ever made by a Russian in the National Football League. Ivanov came up with the stop in the fourth quarter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers‘ 17:6 win at Miami.
Ivanov, who played for the Moscow Patriots in his homeland, told website Buccaneers.com: ‚It’s amazing. I really can’t find the words. The first Russian tackle in NFL history – I was so excited about it. When it happened, I couldn’t realize what happened. I said, ‘Oh my goodness, what have I done?‘
‚My teammates surrounded me, especially Ronde Barber. He put his face in mine. Jermaine Phillips, he respected me. It was great, but I’m just trying to get better and show some skills. It’s definitely the biggest play of my career.”
Safety Sebastian Sejean from France made 2 tackles in the St Louis Rams‘ 34:13 loss at Tennessee. Sejean has been a staple of the French junior and senior national teams and played in the first IFAF Senior World Championship in Japan in 2007. He played his college football at Laval University in Quebec having begun in club football near his native Paris for Les Molosses D’Asnieres and then for Les Spartiates D’Amiens.
Running back Jermaine Allen, who hails from London, England and played for British American Football League (BAFL) powerhouse the London Os, carried the ball twice for 2 yards as the New Orleans Saints won 24:10 at Arizona.
‚We have six tailbacks on the roster, but players like Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush are established on this team, so the coaches want to see what the rest of us can do,” Allen told website NFLUK.com. Allen has also had to adjust to some unfamiliar temperatures at Saints training camp in Jackson, MS.
‚Camp is hot,” he said. ‚I was warned it would be hot, but nothing prepares you for it. I am getting used to the playbook and just want to get to the point where you are playing without thinking, when it just comes naturally. I’m not far off being there now.”
Mexican defensive tackle Mauricio Lopez registered a tackle in an 18:6 Oakland Raiders win over Bay Area rival the San Francisco 49ers. He lined up against countryman Ramiro Pruneda, who saw action on the offensive line for the 49ers.
Lopez was a regular fixture for the Mexican team that plays in the annual Aztec Bowl and along with Pruneda played at powerhouse Monterrey Tech.
‚I am taking one step at a time, studying the playbook and preparing myself,” Lopez told Raiders.com. ‚The first week was about getting clear instructions, eliminating any doubts and making sure I correct any mistakes. Now it is a matter of just keeping everything going.”
With the second week of preseason action underway, there is the potential for International Practice Squad players to meet head to head only on special teams.
When the St Louis Rams host the San Diego Chargers on Saturday, August 16, linebacker Jason Brisbane (UK) and safety Sebastian Sejean (France) will be in opposition, as will linebackers Eduardo Castaneda (Mexico) and Aden Durde (UK) when the Arizona Cardinals take on the Kansas City Chiefs on the same evening.
NFL International Practice Squad Player Profiles
RB Jermaine Allen
New Orleans Saints London, England, UK, 24
Won a UK national championship with London Os in the British American Football League and was Britbowl MVP in 2005. Played for Staffordshire University. Spent 2007 on Chicago’s practice squad. Played 2 seasons in NFL Europa.
WR Marvin Allen
Pittsburgh Steelers Dorking, England, UK, 25
Won three consecutive UK BAFL championships with the London Os (2001-2003). Spent 2006 (Pittsburgh) and 2007 (Miami) on NFL practice squads. Played 3 years in NFL Europa.
LB Carl-Johan Bjork
Cincinnati Bengals Stockholm, Sweden, 26
Played for Taby Flyers and was a three-time national champion with Stockholm Mean Machines. Represented his country, winning the 2005 European Championships and two Nordic championships. Was the 2004 Swedish League MVP. Spent 2006 (Dallas) and 2007 (Green Bay) on NFL practice squads. Played 3 seasons in NFL Europa.
LB Jason Brisbane
San Diego Chargers London, England, UK, 25
Helped London Blitz win the British American Football League (BAFL) title in 2007. Was the BAFL MVP in 2004.
LB Eduardo Castaneda
Arizona Cardinals Ciudad Acùna, Mexico, 25
Played in three consecutive national championships (2004-2006) at Monterrey Tech and for the Mexican national team in 2005 and 2006. Played one year in NFL Europa. Spent 2007 on Houston’s practice squad.
LB Aden Durde
Kansas City Chiefs London, England, UK, 28
Was a member of the UK champion London Os, winning four UK championships and has also turned coached the London Warriors in BAFL Youth League. Spent 2005 on Carolina’s practice squad. Played 5 seasons in NFLEL.
T Samuel Gutekunst
Seattle Seahawks Karlsruhe, Germany, 24
Began his career with the Heiligenstein Crusaders then the Saarland Hurricanes in the German Football League (GFL). Spent 2006 (Baltimore) and 2007 (Jacksonville) on NFL practice squads. Played 3 years in NFL Europa.
S Sergey Ivanov
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Moscow, Russia, 23
Won a Pop Warner championship in Orlando as a junior in the Russian CLAF (Children’s League of American Football). Also played for the Moscow Patriots and represented Russia’s junior and senior national teams. Was part of the 2002 European Junior Championship-winning Russian team. Played 3 seasons in NFL Europa.
WR Noriaki Kinoshita
Atlanta Falcons Toyonaka, Osaka, Japan, 25
Won four Koshien Bowls and two Rice Bowl Japanese national championships at Ritsumeikan University. Spent the 2007 training camp with Atlanta. Played 3 years in NFL Europa winning World Bowl XIII.
DT Mauricio Lopez
Oakland Raiders Mexico City, Mexico, 29
Represented his country four times in the Aztec Bowl. Played college football at Monterrey Tech and won two Borregos Championships. Spent the 2007 training camp with Philadelphia. Played 3 seasons in NFL Europa.
DE Christian Mohr
Cleveland Browns Aachen, Germany, 28
Began his German Football League (GFL) career with his hometown Aachen Demons. Was 2002 Defensive MVP with Dusseldorf Panthers. Spent 2 seasons on NFL practice squads with Seattle (2004) and Philadelphia (2006).
LB Manuel Padilla
Denver Broncos Mexicali, Mexico, 25
Named to All-Star team twice at Monterrey Tech where he played his Mexican college football.
T Ramiro Pruneda
San Francisco 49ers Monterrey, Mexico, 25
Won four national championships at Monterrey Tech and was named best offensive lineman three times. Has also played for the Mexican national team. Spent 2007 on NFL practice squads with Kansas City and Philadelphia.
S Sebastian Sejean
St. Louis Rams Paris, France, 24
Started his career at Les Molosses D’Asnieres then he went to play for Les Spartiates D’Amiens. Played at University of Laval. A member of the French Senior National Team at the 2007 World Cup of American Football.
LB Shaun Smith
Carolina Panthers Bournemouth, England, UK, 26
Played with Southern Sundevils of the British American Football League (BAFA) and for the Great Britain national team, winning the 2006 European Championship in Amiens, France. Played 2 NFL Europa seasons
DT Salomon Solano
Baltimore Ravens Tamaulipas, Mexico, 22
Played three years at Tamaulipas University where he led the team in sacks in 2005 and played two years for the Mexican national team. Spent 2007 on Detroit’s practice squad. 1 season in NFL Europa.