Harkening back to NFL Europe days; return of the international practice squad player:pic.twitter.com/2S2giO36ic— Andrew Brandt (@AndrewBrandt) May 25, 2017
NFL Communications announced Thursday that the NFC South will test a new program designed to build up pro football’s brand abroad. Each of the teams in the division will be granted an eleventh practice squad player who will train, practice, and develop alongside their teammates. These players carry an international designation and cannot be activated for the 2017 season, but will get opportunities to play in regular-season games in the future.
The New Orleans Saints have been joined by defensive end Alex Jenkins (6-foot-6, 270-pounds), a three-year starter at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. The 24-year-old Jenkins is a native of Bath, England, who first became aware of American football when he saw Adam Sandler’s 2005 movie “The Longest Yard” and began playing youth football. He made the British national youth team and was offered a scholarship by UIW. Here is a good video interview with Jenkins going into more detail on his background.
Jenkins took part in the NFL Regional Combine hosted earlier this spring at the Saints’ practice facilities in Metairie, where his impressive athletic testing caught the attention of multiple NFL scouts. Jenkins and the Saints will return to England for an October 1st game against the Miami Dolphins (kickoff at 8:30 AM CST) at Wembley Stadium.
Wanna thank my @UIWAthletics! And everyone New chapter with an awesome team What a great day to be alive and be a saint ! Go saints @Saints pic.twitter.com/9QBuvirqpE— Alex Jenkins (@AlexJenkins15) May 25, 2017
The other international practice squad players going pro alongside Jenkins include Alex Gray (Atlanta Falcons), Eric Nzeocha (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), and Efe Obada (Carolina Panthers). Each of them have been training under the instruction of Aden Durde, head of football development for NFLUK, and two-time Super Bowl Champion Osi Umenyiora.
Former Saints receiver Lance Moore took a similar path to the NFL, playing in the since-defunct NFL Europe and working his way up through practice squads. It remains to be seen whether Jenkins will ever take the field in regulation, but the Saints need any pass rusher they can get. If nothing else, having someone with Jenkins’ driven intensity in practice will be good competition. It’s cool to see guys get this opportunity.
Edit: Alex Jenkins’ height and weight was initially reported at 6-foot-4, 250-pounds but he is actually listed at 6-foot-6, 270-pounds.