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NFL - US Sports: Most successful Brits in history

30 June 2022 03:11:52 EST
Several Brits have made a major impact in the NFL over the years

Two more Brits with aspirations of becoming future stars joined the NFL ranks this year, with Adedayo Odeleye and Ayo Oyelola allocated to the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars respectively.

As they step up the hard work needed to make the grade, we look at the most successful British exports to the league and how each left their mark on the sport in the US.

Osi Umenyiora (New York Giants & Atlanta Falcons)

When Osi Umenyiora called time on his career in 2015, he was rightly considered to have been right up there among the true modern great defensive players.

He recorded 85 sacks during his career, 75 of them with the New York Giants, for whom only three others are ahead of him on the list of the franchise's all-time sack leaders - Hall of Famers Michael Strahan (141.5) and Lawrence Taylor (132.5), and Leonard Marshall (79.5).

The London-born defensive end forced 35 fumbles, recovering 13, and still holds a share of the NFL's single-season record for forced fumbles at 10. He also holds the Giants' record with three fumbles returned for touchdowns.

Big Blue certainly got what they hoped for when they drafted Umenyiora with the 56th overall selection of the 2003 draft out of Troy, the only school that had offered him an athletic scholarship.

He was a part of two Super Bowl-winning teams in New York as the Giants defeated the Patriots both in 2007 and 2012, leaving the Big Apple in 2013 for two years as an Atlanta Falcon.

And it was during his first season in Georgia that Umenyiora snagged his only-ever NFL interception, running it back 68 yards for his fifth career TD.

Jay Ajayi (Miami Dolphins & Philadelphia Eagles)

London-born Jay Ajayi was raised in Texas, where he became a high school star before attending Boise State from 2011 to 2014. His NFL potential soon became clear when, as a junior in 2014, he became the first Broncos player to rush for 100+ yards in 10 games in a season.

The Miami Dolphins took note and drafted him with the 149th overall pick in 2015 with Ajayi going on play in nine games as a rookie.

His breakout year came in 2016 when, after taking over as a starter during pre-season, Ajayi became only the fourth player in NFL history to rush over 200 yards in three games in a single season and one of only 15 players in NFL history at the time to record three or more career 200+ yard rushing performances.

He was then traded midway through his third season to the Eagles, scoring a TD on his debut against the Denver Broncos and adding two more as the Eagles reached Super Bowl LII.

In one of the most spectacular Super Bowls in recent memory Ajayi rushed for 57 rushing yards as the Eagles beat the Patriots 41-33, giving them their first title in franchise history.

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Lawrence Tynes (Kansas City Chiefs, Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)

Greenock-born placekicker Lawrence Tynes won two Super Bowl rings during his time with the Giants, alongside former college team-mate Umenyiora, but entered the league with nothing like the reputation of his fellow Brit.

The Celtic-mad soccer player did not try football until his senior year of high school, but demonstrated he had a strong enough leg as came a walk-on at Troy before earning a scholarship during his second year with the Trojans.

Tynes couldn't quite catch on as an undrafted free agent with the Chiefs, but found a starting job in New York and played a crucial role in both of their recent Super Bowl victories.

The Scotsman booted a 47-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Giants past the Green Bay Packers in the 2007 NFC Championship Game. That clutch kick by Tynes, who had missed two kicks earlier in the game, was the longest field goal in postseason history at Lambeau Field.

In 2011, Tynes kicked another field goal in overtime to beat the San Francisco 49ers 20-17 and again send the Giants to the Super Bowl.

John Smith (New England Patriots)

After training for three years as a teacher in Winchester, John Smith crossed the pond and approached the New England Patriots to ask for a trial as a placekicker.

Their coaches spotted the left-footed kicker's potential and he went on to become the fourth-highest scorer in Patriots history. He led the NFL in scoring in 1979 and 1980.

Visanthe Shiancoe (Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans)

After serving as a back-up in New York, Birmingham-born tight end Visanthe Shiancoe emerged as a starter for the Vikings - enjoying a purple patch of scoring with 24 TDs in five seasons.

His final career numbers are highly respectable for an NFL tight end - 245 receptions for 2,679 yards.

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