It’s been just over a month since the Houston Texans won Nigerian-born British defenseman Adedayo Odeleye from the 2022 NFL International Player Pathway program, and though he’s still not fully adjusted to the “aggressive” Texas heat , he feels comfortable in his new home.
“It was a great experience,” Odeleye told TexansDaily. “Everyone here has been really accommodating, from the coaches to the teammates to the office staff.”
“From a football point of view, yes [been] intense, but that’s what you expect when you play at such a high level. It’s one of those things where it’s hard to be perfect, but everything you do you have to try and aim for that perfection.”
Adapting to the NFL is never an easy step, especially when you’ve only been playing the game for five years.
Odeleye – the youngest of seven children – grew up as a self-proclaimed “restless half-overweight boy” between Nigeria and Saudi Arabia until he moved to the UK at the age of nine. From then on, Odeleye said, “The agitation sort of turned into activity.”
“I’ve played soccer, basketball, athletics, rugby, really everything I’ve been involved with,” Odeleye said.
By the time he reached secondary school (11-16), Odeleye said he focused on rugby and was able to play a year older because he was taller than others his age.
“My interest in American football really started around the age of 16/17,” Odeleye said. “I started watching the Super Bowl – it was really the only game I watched, picked up a few rules here and there and then when I got to university I tried different sports – I think I did I’ve tried soccer, American football, basketball, rugby, track and field, and I sort of settled into American football because the physical aspects really interested me.”
Odeleye admitted that pursuing football as a career was not an option early on and that he simply played it for pleasure.
“When I first started playing American football, making it into the league wasn’t part of the plan – I literally just started playing because I came to Loughborough [University] I thought it was funny,” Odeleye said.
While at Loughborough, one of his coaches recommended him to scouts on the NFL’s International Player Pathway.
“That’s when I realized there could be more than fun, that I could possibly consider a career after that,” Odeleye said. “And since then, I would say that I always expect the best results from everything I do.”
The International Pathway, currently in its sixth year, has helped players from around the world get their chance in the NFL by providing talent coaching and a path into the league.
“Obviously I wouldn’t be where I am without the International Pathway,” Odeleye said. “I really love what the program is doing, what the program is about. They’re really trying to build a bridge, that connection between capable athletes around the world and the league, to try and show that to the league and the world [there are] Athletes around the world can compete physically in the NFL.”
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After missing out on a spot down the road last year, Odeleye continued to hone his skills in Germany, playing for Berlin Thunder, where he recorded 34 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss and seven sacks in eight games he was a member of The All -Star team of the European League of Football.
After making the International Pathway this year, he didn’t have to wait long to finally get his chance, and he said there was “a mixed reaction” to getting the call.
“Obviously I was very happy to make it into the NFL and go to a great franchise like Houston, but at the same time I was just excited to see what the next phase would be and what the next phase would be like,” Odeleye said. “I was happy but I wasn’t really satisfied because it was a big deal to make the team but at the end of the day I have bigger dreams than just being in the team. So I was really looking forward to joining, connecting with the team and getting the process started.”
Now at number 75, the 6-5, 271-pound defender can focus on the next step. And his goals for 2022 are simple: improve.
“I’m trying to be sure [that] Today’s training was better than yesterday and I can collect good days,” said Odeleye. “And wherever that takes me this season, as long as I’m happy with the effort I’ve put in, I’m happy with whatever the results are.”
So what kind of player do the Texans get in Odeleye?
“As someone who has never experienced anything close to this level of football, I’m able to bring a different perspective to the game, both physically and in the classroom,” Odeleye said. “I’m a hard worker, I’m a go-getter, I believe I can make things happen.”
Odeleye was shy when it came to identifying specific players that he modeled his game after, saying “It’s very difficult to base your game on just one person because everyone has different physical characteristics.”
However, he did mention learning from Aaron Donald for his fast footwork, and from the Bosa brothers for their ability to “use their speed and turn it into a powerful move that I think is probably my best move for.” would be the future,” and fellow British lineman Efe Obada.
“With what Efe Obada has been able to achieve, coming out of the program, coming into the league, picking up multiple sacks over multiple seasons, his game was something I was able to learn from as well because we both have similar backgrounds, similar physical properties, so I definitely watched his highlight tape a few times to try and pick a few things,” Odeleye said.
Odeleye seemed thrilled to work in head coach Lovie Smith’s defense. Noting Smith’s emphasis on takeaways and aggressive play, he consistently said, “It’s a program that I believe not only I but the team can really thrive on.”
Odeleye’s excitement at this defense was clearly audible. The same isn’t necessarily true of the stifling Texas heat, however, which he described as “inevitable,” which wasn’t helped by his misjudgment during his first training session, when he made the mistake of wearing long sleeves, which he made after graduation had the session a bit more difficult.
In theory, Odeleye is in the right environment to thrive with a renowned defensive head coach and a line-up of seasoned veterans on the defensive line.
If Odeleye can prove successful like his compatriot Obada, the Texans and Britain could have a winner.