While the National Football League is slowly gaining popularity, it has taken longer to catch on internationally. While Canada has consistently had a premier professional American football league, Europe’s leagues have been less consistent. However, as the NFL has played more and more games in the region, American football has continued to pick up steam. Several European players could have NFL potential, including some in the European League of Football. Let’s look at the history of European football and the NFL, along with five potential NFL players in the future.
European Football History
While the presence of former European players in the NFL has decreased in recent years, the region has a rich history of professional football, specifically with NFL Europe. This league was founded in 1991 and ran through 2007, peaking in the late 1990s. Former MVP and Hall of Famer Kurt Warner spent time in the NFL Europe league, along with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Brad Johnson and former NFC champion quarterback Jake Delhomme. Warner specifically was an online sportsbook favorite thanks to his eye-popping statistics with the Rams’ “greatest show on turf” teams of the late 1990s. NFL Europe was also a popular option for players that went on to have great special teams careers in the NFL, including future Hall of Fame kicker Adam Vinatieri and NFL 2000’s All-Decade Team kick returner Dante Hall.
However, with the league ending in 2007, European players have shuffled around several leagues, looking for a shot in the NFL’s International Player Pathway. Here are five players that could have a chance in the future.
Following the old NFL Europe formula of breaking into the NFL via special teams talent, Constant is a natural fit. The 5’9″, 180-pound wide receiver is electric in the return game, as he was with Stony Brook and Bryant University. The Delray Beach, Florida native redshirted twice after not playing as a freshman and became the best kick returner at the FCS level. As a redshirt sophomore, he was a third-team All-American returner, and as a junior, he was a first-team All-American.
Across those two seasons, he had a seemingly impossible five kick return touchdowns, leading him to sign with the Barcelona Dragons for the European League of Football’s inaugural season in 2021. He immediately became the league’s best receiver, catching 75 passes for 1074 yards, both league-leading numbers. He could catch on as a special teamer at the NFL level.
A teammate with Constant in the Barcelona Dragons, Edwards quickly established himself as the best quarterback in the league. He led the league with 3,325 yards and 36 touchdowns while rushing for 549 yards and adding four more touchdowns with his legs, nearly winning league MVP in 2023. While it will be more difficult for a quarterback to emerge from this league in the NFL, Edwards is a leading candidate to do that.
Now playing for the Paris Musketeers, the European League of Football’s all-time leading passer re-signed for the 2024 season, looking to continue boosting his NFL resume.
Another quarterback, Evans, isn’t quite the success story in the European League of Football as Edwards. However, he has a much stronger NFL resume. While Edwards played his college ball at the Division III level, Jerod Evans started for Virginia Tech in 2016, throwing for 3552 yards and adding 846 more yards on the ground, scoring 31 total touchdowns. He got invited to the NFL Combine and signed with the Eagles and Packers practice squad before bouncing around several leagues, including the Fehérvár Enthroners in 2023. He was released, but very few European players have a better NFL resume than Evans.
While the European League of Football is emerging as a potential NFL gateway, the best way for European players to wind up in the NFL is still the International Player Pathway Program. Junior Aho is a promising player among those players. Born in Nice, France, the 25-year-old nose tackle went undrafted in the 2023 NFL Draft but signed with the Vikings through the program. He didn’t make the roster but spent time on Minnesota’s practice squad, spending the season on that team. He became a free agent at the end of the season.
Arguably saving the best for last, Luca Jokiel may be the best European prospect in the European League of Football. At left tackle, he became one of the best tackles in the league with the Stuttgart Surge. The 6’7″, 325-pound offensive lineman looks different than his peers with his NFL size. He is a physical specimen and was invited to the NFL International Combine in 2023. He still has some work to do with technique and has not played a lot of great competition, but he could be a player that gets NFL looks in the future.
Who Might Be Next?
Along with the players listed, there are several different prospects on the NFL radar this season. Players like Efe Obada and Jakob Johnson have graduated from European programs to the NFL, and guys like Tyrese Johnson-Fisher and John-Levi Kruse weren’t listed but could have a shot in the future.