Football is as American sport through and through… There is no denying that.
And while NFL football obviously doesn’t have the same global as fútbol, AKA soccer as we call it here, or even the NBA, honestly… it is rapidly growing its international reach year over year.
As a result, we have started to see a significant increase in international athletes popping up in the league.
Again, not to the same degree as the NBA—but there are some pretty legit international players making an impact on NFL rosters nowadays. It is fascinating to think about what that will look like in 10 to 20 years as the game continues to grow.
Anyway—let’s stay in the now—and check out the best NFL player from each country in 2023.
Penei Sewell – American Samoa
American Samoa has a rich history of producing high-end athletes, particularly in physically demanding sports—and Lions’ offensive tackle, Penei Sewell is a great example.
Standing 6’ 6” and 330 pounds, the former 7th overall pick in the draft out of Oregon is a force to be reckoned with in the trenches.
Having been named to the Pro Bowl in just his second year, Sewell looks to have an extremely bright career ahead of him.
Jordan Mailata – Australia
Considering Australia is quite literally across the world from the US, it isn’t a huge surprise that NFL fields are littered with Aussies… But Jordan Mailata has done a pretty good job of representing the people “down under.”
He grew up playing Rugby—no surprise considering his freakish size and athleticism, but unfortunately, as he continued to grow, he actually became a little too big for Pro Rugby and struggled to keep up with the pace of play.
But his frame and athletics caught the eye of NFL scouts and he made it to the NFL via the International Player Pathway Program despite never having played a single game of football—and only watching the Super Bowl.Considering he is still in the league, playing for the Eagles—the same team that took him in the 7th round back in ’18—I’d say he’s panned out fairly well.
Michael Strachan – Bahamas
The former two-sport athlete at West Virginia Charleston became one of just four Bahamian nationals to ever play in the NFL once the Colts drafted him in the seventh round of the 2021 Draft, excited by the 200 and 400-meter conference champion’s speed.
Not to mention his nearly 6’ 6” frame and 35-inch vertical.
Thus far, he’s only made five catches as a pro… so… definitely room for improvement, but still the best to come from the tiny Island nation by default.
Bernhard Raimann – Austria
Bernhard Raimann, unlike a lot of the physical freaks to have made it to the NFL, actually started playing at a relatively young age. He started “American Football” – a designation that is only important because he grew up in Vienna, Austria at the age of 14.
He was able to take his game to the next level when he got the chance to spend his junior year of high school in Michigan as part of a student-exchange program.
After finishing his one year of mandatory service, he enrolled at Central Michigan, where he played tight end, before transitioning to offensive tackle—the position he plays now for the Indianapolis Colts.The former third-round pick started 16 games as a rookie and was one of the better pass-blocking tackles in the league, finishing 21st of 81 qualified tackles according to Pro Football Focus.
Corliss Waitman – Belgium
Corliss Waitman didn’t start playing football until high school, when he moved to the US from Belgium to live with his father, who had been a professional basketball player in Belgium when Corliss was born.
It was a long, winding road for the Waitman, who was able to take his soccer skills and turn himself into a professional caliber punter, to make it to the NFL.
But after going undrafted and toiling through a few different practice squads he established himself as a legitimate option.
Cairo Santos – Brazil
Go figure… The best NFL player to come out of Brazil is a kicker… What a tremendous surprise!
Santos first moved to Flroida as a foreign exchange student at 15, when he realized his time on the soccer pitch translated quite well to this new game he was introduced to called football.
So much so, that he was actually able to earn a college scholarship for it.
Santos admittedly hasn’t been up against much competition to be the country’s best, but he has been a solid pro kicker, so we have to pay him his respects.
Arnold Ebiketie – Cameroon
Arnold Ebiketie may be the only Cameroonian-born NFL player in the league today, but he has all the makings of being a really solid pro.
The Falcons took him in the second round of the 2022 draft out of Penn State—and he was a solid rotational contributor year 1, notching 30 tackles and 3.5 sacks. It will be fascinating to see how he evolves during his sophomore campaign of course—but with the lack of competition he has already firmly locked up top honors as far as Cameroon is concerned.
Jevon Holland – Canada
At this point, there are a fair amount of players that have made it from our neighboring country up north, Canada, to the NFL.
And while it is still early, I feel comfortable asserting Jevon Holland as the best of the bunch.
The Oregon standout was taken in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft by the Dolphins and he managed to grab PFWA recognition on their All-Rookie Team, notching 133 tackles and four sacks.
With that kind of production as a rookie—the ceiling is the limit for Holland.
Lewis Cine – Haiti
Lewis Cine’s family moved to the US, Massachusetts specifically, from Haiti when he was just four years old.
He quickly outgrew the local football scene with his ridiculous athleticism—and moved to Texas to live with an Uncle and get a chance at playing against better competition—and of course in front of more scouts.
Oh—and the young defensive back got the chance to be coached by the legendary Deion Sanders.
Considering he parlayed that into a scholarship at Georgia and subsequently a first-round selection in the 2022 draft, by the Vikings, I’d say that decision panned out pretty well for him.
Unfortunately, his rookie season was wrecked by a broken leg, but he doesn’t have much competition from Haiti—and there is still reason to believe that he’ll have a great pro career.
Danielle Hunter – Jamaica
Danielle Hunter was born in St. Catherine, Jamaica—and moved to the US at the age of eight—to Katy, Texas, an area just outside of Houston.
Fortunately for Hunter, he’d unknowingly moved to a football hotbed—so much so—that a local coach recognized his athletic prowess after witnessing him playing tag, chasing down other kids who were on rollerblades!
By the time Hunter hit high school, he was 6’ 6” and 230 pounds—and an absolute freak athlete, excelling at football and in track and field.
After establishing himself as a four-star recruit, Hunter got a scholarship to LSU, where he was a two-year starter and played well enough for the Vikings to draft him in the third round of the 2015 draft.
And… well… that has panned out pretty well for Minnesota. Hunter has notched four double-digit sack seasons in the five years he was healthy for the entire season, earning three Pro Bowls and an All-Pro in the process, firmly establishing himself as the best player to come out of Jamaica.
George Karlaftis – Greece
When one things about the prototypical NFL defensive end, they might think 6’ 4”… 260 plus pounds of muscle…4.7 speed… All attributes that George Karlafits possesses.
What one wouldn’t think—is born and raised—at least for the first 13 years of his life in Greece, but that is exactly the case for Karlaftis.
Unfortunately, it was tragedy that brought him to the US as a teenager. His father, a Greek National, who had married a woman he met from West Lafayette, Indiana, during his studies in the US, passed away from a heart attack, while speaking at a conference.
Shortly after his fathers death, his mother moved the family back to the US—and that was where young George, who had spent most of his early years competing in high-level water polo picked up football.
Needless to say, George, who, even then, was a freakish athlete, was a natural fit on the gridiron. He parlayed his high school exploits into a scholarship to Purdue. Then, in 2022, the Chiefs took the young edge rusher with the 30th overall pick in the draft—and once again, he has hit the ground running. He recorded 6 sacks and 33 tackles as a rookie, earning PFWA All-Rookie team recognition.
Nelson Agholor – Nigeria
So… Nelson Aghlor might not have been the most popular player amongst some of the teams he has played for’s fan base—particularly the Philadelphia Eagles rowdy bunch.
I mean, Agholor was down so bad during his days in Philly that he even got trolled on the news by a local man who saved a baby from a burning building.
I know that sounds like a mad lib, but it’s true!
I think that for Agholor the issue has always been that there is just so much potential. He’s wicked fast and can jump out of the gym. So when he makes rookie mistakes well into his professional career—or drops a seemingly un droppable pass—it is only natural that he catches a little bit of flack from the fans.
Nevertheless—there is no denying that he is a legitimately talented NFL player. Imperfect, yes, but talented. And he is still the best Nigerian born player—even amongst a group that continues to get deeper year over year.
Greg Joseph – South Africa
So… Not a lot of football being played in South Africa… Greg Joseph had a bit of a cakewalk to the top of the podium here… But that said, he has proven to be a pretty solid placekicker.
First, at Florida Atlantic, which was a natural college choice for him after his family relocated to Boca Raton.
During his five years on campus, Joseph set a number of school records—and though he didn’t end up getting drafted, he was able to climb the undrafted-free agent ladder and become a full-time kicker in the league.
I wouldn’t expect this guy to end up in Canton… But as far as the South Africans go—he’s the best we’ve got!
Younghoe Koo – South Korea
Against all odds, Younghoe Koo, who originally hails from Seoul, South Korea and grew up playing soccer and didn’t pick up football until he moved to New Jersey for high school with his mother, who was taking a nursing job, and played both defense and special teams.
Wouldn’t you know it, the kicking thing stuck. He played college ball at Georgia Southern, where he was a finalist for the Lou Garza award and now he has become one of the more consistent placekickers in the NFL.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside – Spain
Though he does get a lot of flack for his lack of production in the NFL, largely because he was taken just before DK Metcalf in the 2019 NFL Draft, Arcega-Whiteside does deserve some credit for being one of the only Spanish-born players to ever play in the NFL.
It is interesting that he landed on football as his sport, considering he hails from a family with a rich professional basketball pedigree, but that does explain his 4.5-speed and 34-inch vertical.
He’s bounced around from Philly to Seattle, now to Atlanta, so hopefully he can start to find his groove at the pro level there. Otherwise, with only 16 career catches to his name, the league’s only Spanish-born wide receiver may be looking for a new line of work soon.
Javon Kinlaw – Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago is an island nation of just 1.4 million people—located in the Caribbean, so it isn’t shocking that they don’t have a ton of representation in the NFL… But they didn’t manage to produce a first-round draft pick in Javon Kinlaw.
Kinlaw’s family immigrated to the US when he was a child—and settled in South Carolina, where he picked up the sport—and parlayed his JUCO experience into a spot at USC.
Things haven’t gone great for Kinlaw since entering the NFL in 2020 as the 14th overall pick, as he’s struggled to stay on the field—and when he has, he hasn’t produced with any kind of consistency.
But he’s still with San Francisco and if he can stay healthy in 2023, who knows, maybe the defensive tackle will step his game up and become a contributor on that talented Niners D.
Patrick Mahomes – USA
Last, but not least—we have the U, S of A! We would be remiss not to mention the country that has far and away the most players in the NFL… And as far as we are concerned, Patrick Mahomes is the best of the lot.
He is the elite of the elite—and he’s been that pretty much from the first moment he took the reins in Kansas City. I mean the guy has been starting in the league for like five years and he’s already won two rings, two MVPs, and three All-Pros.
America has the best football players across the board—and Mahomes is the best of the best.