Kehinde Oginni is one of three Nigerians born and raised in the country, along with Roy Mbaeteka and Ndubuisi Haggai, to sign for an NFL franchise through the league’s International Player Pathway programme.
Oginni shares his journey so far as he aims to make the final cut of the Kansas City Chiefs for the 2022/23 season.
How It Started
He was born in Lagos on March the 3rd, 1999, and had never played American football until 2014 when he had the chance to attend a basketball camp.
“A friend told me about the Ejike Ugboaja basketball/American football camp in Abuja so I went with the hope of getting an American Collegiate scholarship. I grew up playing basketball because of my height (6’7”) but the coaches at the camp convinced me to try football and as they say, the rest is history,” he said.
“Unfortunately, on our way back home from camp, We had a car accident and lost 3 of my friends but rather than being discouraged, I was even more determined to make it in their honour.”
International Player Pathway (IPP) opportunity
He continued to train and grind over the years and finally got his big break in 2021 when former NY Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora selected him to be a part of his UpRise Academy in Abuja, a development which he never saw coming at the time.
“When Osi called me, I couldn’t believe my luck because having a legendary figure like him notice my talent was simply amazing,” he explained.
With Umenyiora’s mentorship, Oginni made the final IPP Combine cut and was on his way to the NFL academy in London in October for the IPP program which was created to provide elite international athletes with the opportunity to compete at the NFL level, improve their skills, and ultimately earn a spot on an NFL roster.
Signing for Kansas City Chiefs
In London, the 23-year-old impressed scouts with his skill set, work ethic, and athleticism and was soon on his way to Arizona for the international player showcase where he eventually got signed as an undrafted free agent for the 2021 Super Bowl Champions.
“The camp was a great platform for me to showcase my talent in front of NFL coaches and luckily for me, the Chiefs were convinced by what they saw,” the player added.
“They believe in my potential to become a productive player for the team.”
Training camp experience
Oginni was initially listed as a tight end but he’s now listed as a defensive end which suggests a positional change but the 23-year-old is backing his versatility to come through for him.
“I’m a great athlete, a fast learner, and can adapt my game, so I can be productive for the team in any position they want me to,” the 23-year-old added.
He has also been mixing it with top-tier NFL talents that he could never have imagined interacting with when his American football journey began almost seven years ago, thousands of miles away from America.
“Being in the same building with Super Bowl Champions like coach Andy Reid and QB Patrick Mahomes has been surreal,” Oginni said.
“I have learnt a lot from them in my short time in training camp and no matter what happens next, I will cherish every moment for the rest of my life.”
Message to Nigerian prospects
As Oginni continues to strive to make the most of his opportunity, his message to prospects back home is simple.
“Keep believing in your dreams and one day, the hard work, dedication, and perseverance will pay off,” he stated.