7 of the Greatest European Players in NFL History

20.07.16
4 minute read
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Here are seven of the most successful ever Europeans to have played in the NFL

1. Morten Andersen, Kicker, Danish

During Andersen’s 25-year career he notched up dozens of all-time NFL records - including leading scorer, most career field goals, most games played, and most consecutive games scoring. With 2,544 points to his name from the 382 games he played, he has a strong claim to greatest all time NFL import.

He started his sporting career in his native Denmark as a student gymnast, long jumper and nearly made the Danish junior soccer team. After visiting the US at 17 while at school, he started playing high school football and never looked back. All in, he appeared for five NFL teams, won seven Pro Bowl selections, six All-Pro selections and was in the 1980s and 1990s All-Decade Teams.

2. Ernie Stautner, Defensive Tackle, German

Born in Germany in 1925, Stautner’s family immigrated to New York just three years later. He served in the Marine Corps before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he stayed for the next 13 years. Despite of his diminutive stature (for a pro-footballer) of 6’1”, 23lbs, Stautner was the embodiment of toughness and conquered everything he came up against...literally. One teammate reported that Stautner even played on despite having a fractured thumb during one game.

The two-time Super Bowl champion had his shirt number, 70, retired by the Steelers in honour of his success, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1969. As if all that wasn’t enough, he even went on to have a stellar coaching career in Europe, leading the Frankfurt Galaxy to World Bowl glory in 1995.

3. Sebastian Janikowski, Kicker, Polish

Another kicker who was originally a junior soccer player, Janikowski has gone on to claim several kicking records in his 16 year NFL career. And at a spritely 38 there’s still life left in those goal-kicking limbs.

The Oakland Raiders picked him up in the first round of the draft in 2000 and Janikowski, nicknamed The Polish Cannon, has stayed the course with them, kicking his way to 385 field goals. He even picked up the joint record for longest field goal at 63 yards. Not bad for someone who was charged with battery and arrested for bribery in 2000 (later acquitted).

4. Osi Umenyiora, Defensive End, British

Born in Britain, and originally from Nigeria, Umenyiora is a two time Super Bowl winner - one of only three British-born players to have won a Super Bowl (one of the others was former Giants teammate Lawrence Tynes).

Hailing from London, Umenyiora began his fledgling football career at high school in Alabama, before going on to play for the Giants (2003-2012) and the Atalanta Falcons (2013-2014). He’s since begun a career in the media with BBC Sport, working on raising the game’s international profile.

5. Leo Nomellini, Tackle, Italian

One of the most highly recognised individuals of all time, Italian born Nomellini started playing football while working for the Marine Corps in 1942. In 1950 he became the first ever player the San Francisco 49ers drafted. He played at both offensive and defensive tackle in a total of 266 pro games. After playing every single 49ers game for 14 seasons, he was included in the 1950s team of the decade, and was named NFL’s greatest defensive tackle of all time. As if that wasn’t enough, he was another entrant in the 1969 Pro Football Hall of Fame.

6. Michael Roos, Offensive Tackle, Estonian

Widely respected for his natural football ability, Roos originally hails from Taebla, Estonia, where he was born in 1982 when it was still part of the Soviet Union. He and his family moved to Washington, where he tight end for his high school football team.The Tennessee Titans drafted him in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft, and he went on to become one of the most impressive offensive tackles in the league.

He retired after 10 years with the Titans. During that decade he earned All-Pro honors, a Pro Bowl invitation in 2008, and even in his final season he was his team’s top blocker, until his season was curtailed by a serious knee injury that ultimately forced him into retirement from the game.He’s now

7. Jan Stenerud, Placekicker, Norwegian

Norwegian-born Stenerud was something of an innovator in NFL history, in that the was one of the first pro footballers to be deployed as a dedicated kicker. The stats tell you why: he had a 70% success rate compared to the 53% average of his NFL rivals.

In a strange quirk of fate, his kicking talent was actually spotted while he was kicking a ball during a warm up on a ski trip. He went on to have an illustrious career, winning the Super Bowl in 1970 and scoring 1,699 points in a 19-season career that took him from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Green Bay Packers, and finally the Minnesota Vikings. He was recognised in the Hall of Fame in 1991, one of only four kickers to receive such acclaim, and the Kansas Chiefs retired his shirt number 3 in his honour.

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