NFL ‘combine’ has become a key pillar in gridiron’s global marketing strategy | Paul MacInnes

Hopefuls from the UK, Germany, Japan and across the world have a shot at glory via the International Player Pathway

Doing shuttle sprints in the north London drizzle might seem a long way from the razzamatazz of the NFL, but maybe that’s the point. For the 50 athletes competing at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the chance of a golden ticket to the world’s most lucrative sports league, this was just one more step on a long journey.

Adedayo Odeleye’s story is a case in point. One of the dozens of tall, variously muscular individuals who had flown in from all over the world to take part in the day-long trial known as the “NFL combine”, and the 23-year-old has a clear-eyed sense of the job in hand. Born in Nigeria and raised in the UK, he was spotted by NFL scouts as a student player at Loughborough University. He did his first combine last year, a pandemic-disrupted affair that took him to a training camp in Florida and ended with him signing for the European League of Football side, Berlin Thunder. One year and one place on the European all-star team later, he’s back and ready to prove he’s completed his education.

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