The International Player Pathway program, which was started by the NFL in 2017, provides a path for non-Americans to get a shot at playing professional football at a high level. The program permits an expanded roster exemption, which allows teams to roster an international player without even having to risk a summer roster spot.
Each year, two divisions (one in the NFC and one in the AFC) are selected to be eligible for this exemption. This year, it’s the NFC North’s turn. According to Tom Pelissero, the Green Bay Packers’ IPP player in 2023 will be Nigeria’s Kenneth Odumegwu, who is listed as a 22-year-old defensive lineman. For what it’s worth, six of the eight players selected this season as IPP players are both from Nigeria and also linemen.
Eight players from three countries have been added to NFL rosters for the 2023 season through the International Player Pathway Program: pic.twitter.com/pdPJvcfHX9— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) May 4, 2023
Odumegwu, who is a converted basketball player, received a defensive MVP award at NFL Africa Touchdown, which was hosted by former All-Pro pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora — who was born in England to Nigerian parents. According to a report, Odumegwu recorded a 4.8-second 40-yard dash and a 33.5” vertical jump at Umenyiora’s event.
Green Bay’s roster, with Odumegwu on it, is now expanded to 91 players until final cuts come around in early September. If Odumegwu doesn’t make the final Packers roster, he will be subject to a waiver claim by the remaining 31 teams. If he clears through the initial list of waivers, Odumegwu will then be able to re-sign with Green Bay during the regular season on the team’s practice squad with another exemption that wouldn’t count against the Packers’ 16-man practice squad count. Often, this is the path that IPP players end up taking during their exemption season.
Just in terms of the eyeball test, I would guess that Odumegwu is technically a 3-4 outside linebacker for the Packers, not a defensive lineman. He should join Rashan Gary (injured), Preston Smith, Lukas Van Ness, Kingsley Enagbare, Justin Hollins, Jonathan Garvin, La’Darius Hamilton, Brenton Cox Jr. and Keshawn Banks at the position for camp this summer.