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The most under of underdogs - Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi

NFL international player pathway program alumni rarely make it in the NFL, but there are a few exceptions and Haggai Ndubuisi is hoping to be one.

NFL: International Combine Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

During the 2022 off-season a large agile man named Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi (HCN) was signed by the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent offensive tackle. The catch is that HCN had never played American football. He grew up in Ghana and Nigeria playing soccer and basketball, but his long arms and his 6-6 298 lbs frame were enough for the Cardinals to win a bidding war for the very athletic big man. The Cardinals guaranteed HCN $207,000 which was one of the highest guarantees for an UDFA in 2022.

HCN had spent time training with former NFL offensive lineman, LeCharles Bentley, who played IOL for the Saints prior to Sean Payton’s time and now styles himself as the OL whisperer. Apparently Bentley’s training was not enough as HCN was released by the Cardinals on August 14th of 2022, which was two days after the Cardinals first preseason game. According to the gamebook, HCN played two snaps on offense.

He must have looked so lost in those two snaps that no other team in the NFL took a chance on him in 2022 despite the lack of talented offensive tackles in the league.

HCN was signed by the Broncos as part of the NFL international player pathway program but now he is calling himself a defensive linemen. According to reports:

He played soccer and basketball in Nigeria as a kid before discovering football on YouTube. Ndubuisi started to practice on his own before joining the UpRise Academy in Ghana in 2021. The academy, founded by former NFL player Osi Umenyiora and former professional basketball player Ejike Ugboaja, aims to help the NFL discover more talent in Africa.

Under league protocols, Ndubuisi will not count against the Denver Broncos’ 90-player roster limit.

Honestly, he has a better shot to make it as a defensive lineman than as an offensive tackle. Playing defensive line is more about physical traits (strength, quickness and flexibility) than playing OT which requires much more technique than most people realize. It also requires somewhat unnatural movements that take thousands of hours of repetition to become muscle memory (can I get an amen from the tackle Bros?). In other words, it’s much easier to turn an elite athlete who has never played football into a defensive tackle than it is to turn him into an offensive tackle.

While it is a long shot for him to make the 53-man roster, there is precedent for NFL IPPP alumni to become decent NFL players. Alumni of the IPPP include Eagle left tackle Jordan Mailata, Commander defensive end Efe Obada and defensive tackle David Bada, and Raider fullback Jakob Johnson according to Ben Levine of Pro Football Rumors. Mailata is probably the most successful of these four having earned the starting LT spot for the NFC Champion Eagles and being one of the highest graded OTs in the league last season according to PFF.

Bada, who is comparable in size to HCN, is probably the best comparison. He saw his first NFL snaps in 2022 (27 on defense) for Washington after being around the team since the 2020 preseason.

Realistically, if HCN is ever to be a contributor for the Broncos, it will likely be two or three seasons from now.


What percent chance would you give Haggai Chisom Ndubuisi at ever making an NFL 53-man roster?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    (261 votes)
  • 23%
    (97 votes)
  • 10%
    (42 votes)
  • 2%
    60% or better
    (12 votes)
412 votes total Vote Now