Earlier this week, the Jacksonville Jaguars kicked off training camp for the 2022 NFL season with a slew of new faces in the organization. A new addition that Jaguars fans may not be familiar with this year is safety Ayo Oyelola. Originally from Dagenham, a small town in East London, England, Oyelola took a very different path to the NFL than most players in the league. NFL London fans to buy NFL London Tickets from our website.
Oyelola, 23, who played college rugby at the University of Nottingham in England, was assigned to the Jaguars in May through the International Players Pathway program.
The International Players Pathway (IPP) program was first established in 2017 to “provide elite international athletes with the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, improve their skills, and ultimately earn a place on the NFL roster.”
The Jaguars can keep Ayo Oyelola on the roster until the end of training camp. If Jacksonville decides to keep him after training camp. The team will be exempted from international player practice. This gives the Jaguars an extra practice team member. During the regular season, Oyelola can also be promoted from the exhibition team to the active roster.
Before being assigned to Jaguars, Ayo Oyelola last season played for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, the eventual winners of the Grey Cup.
He also joined the 2021 International Players Tunnel training phase. Which allows international athletes to showcase their talents to NFL scouts. But was not assigned to an NFL team last season.
To learn more about Oyelola’s background, skills and journey to the NFL. Big Cat Country reached out to some of his college coaches in Nottingham.
Learn more about Oyelola and the University of Nottingham program
Nottingham’s head football coach Jason Scott knew right away that Oyelola could be a great player.
“You can see talent from miles away, the way athletes run, the way they behave. The way they move it’s one thing that immediately stands out (about Oyelola). Ayo is fast his acceleration is ridiculous and He’s fearless. Everything you want from a defender.”
UoN defensive coordinator Ben Davies agrees. Oyelola’s athleticism and speed were immediately noticeable.
“Ayo was a gifted athlete when he joined the team fit, strong and very fast,” Davies said.
“If he’s a little reserved, he’s always open to a coach and has an undeniable drive to do the best he can in every training session and every game.”
American football is not very corporate in the UK. It is considered a niche sport there and opportunities to play and learn the sport are scarce. The level of competition is significantly lower than in the United States.
However, the University of Nottingham is one of the best football programs in the UK, with the experienced coaching staff to teach players how to play and, in the case of Oyelola. Even pursue professional football at the highest level. NFL London Broncos vs Jaguars fans to buy Broncos vs Jaguars Tickets from our website.
Scott, Davies and the rest of the staff quickly made the Nottingham project one of the elite teams in the British University and College Sports (BUCS) competition.
After playing, Scott coached for six years at Loughborough University and then five seasons at Endicott College (NCAA Division III) in Beverly, Massachusetts.
He will then coach for one season at Mississippi State. At Starkville, Scott teamed up with Deshea Townsend, the current Jacksonville coordinator and cornerback coach.
Before being hired by the University of Nottingham, Scott returned to England and served as the defensive coordinator for the Tamworth Phoenix, helping the team win the senior national championship in 2017. He is also the head coach of the British national team.
Scott gave some background on Nottingham’s plan:
“The University of Nottingham has been one of the most successful teams in the BUCS competition in recent years, winning two conference titles in the last three years and a trip to the national final in the summit,” he said.
“These staff took over in 2017 when UoN was still in Division 1. So we oversaw one promotion and one championship game in five seasons.”
The University of Nottingham football program began in the 1990s as an offshoot of the ‘Nottingham Outlaws team. Now Nottingham has several graduate players coming to the UK from US universities like Syracuse University, Lehigh University, Penn State University, North Carolina State University and Bucknell University.
Other teams in the BUCS competition have brought in multiple scholarship players from North America. Some rosters can include five to 12 American players. But Scott’s Nottingham project focuses on developing British talent first and will then use North American talent. Two to three grants. “Quality Leader” from America
“The quality of football is very high. The coaching at UoN is very good and our facilities are among the best in the UK,” said Scott.
“It is an ideal fertile ground for young players who are new to the sport.
“We are very proud of our project in Nottingham. We have a thriving team that is getting better and better,” continued Scott. “As we go into the 2023 season, we expect to have a roster of about 140 players. Many of whom have never played before entering college.”
What will Oyelola bring to the Jaguars?
So, what will Oyelola bring him? Despite his inexperience, he is an incredible athlete with all the physical attributes an NFL coach looks for. Most importantly, Scott said, Oyelola was a great teammate and a better person.
“His physical strengths are obvious – he’s explosive, fast and aggressive. But his real strengths are in him as a person,” Scott said of Oyelola.
“He’s a pure teammate, he’s someone you want to be with when you’re in trouble. He’ll bring the team together – celebrate wins. He helps cheer people up when things aren’t going well. Although his skills are great what sets him apart is his character.”
As stated, Oyelola is very primitive and hasn’t played football for a long time. The level of competition he faced in the UK was nothing like what he faced every day in the NFL. Everyone on the field was a top athlete and one of the best in the world.
However, Scott believes that Oyelola will be able to adjust quickly to the NFL level.
“(Ayo) has improved so much because he’s never been complacent. He’s played hard and driven to be the best, the best player,” added Scott.
“In that (NFL) environment, he will learn a lot, and you will see constant growth. I think he will continue to develop at an incredible pace. During his time in Jacksonville – his coaches will love him. Because he brings the focus to detail and how hard he works.”
For Davies, he believes Oyelola’s speed on the pitch sets him apart. He also brought up Oyelola’s fearlessness and competitiveness against larger foes.
“Ayo’s greatest strength at Nottingham is definitely his speed,” said Davies.
“Being able to get closer to the ball faster than anyone expected would be a winning match. He definitely showed the strength and ferocity it takes to take on players much bigger than him.
“One of the things we worked on in college is his body positioning in tackles, which converts speed into power; I’m sure this is an area that Ayo has been able to develop since he entered the NFL IPP.”