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London Born Julian Okwara Heading to the NFL Play-Offs in 2024

But for a quirk of fate, the Detroit Lions would have won the NFL NFC Conference at the start of 2024 and been spirited straight into the second round of the play-offs.

However, the San Francisco 49ers – with whom the Lions shared a 12-5 record at the top of the standings – got the nod thanks to a better win ratio against their competitors in the NFC. 

A route through to the divisional playoff game would have been music to the ears of Julian Okwara, the London-born line-backer who has made nine appearances for Detroit so far during the 2023/24 season.

Instead, he and his teammates must now take on the Los Angeles Rams for a place in the Conference final four. 

Roaring Home 

With a price of 20/1 in the outright markets for NFL odds, it’s hardly an impossibility that the Detroit Lions will somehow find their path through to the Super Bowl in February.

Of course, those hoping to place a Super Bowl bet will likely focus their attention on the likes of the 49ers (9/4), AFC regular season champions Baltimore Ravens (10/3) and the Buffalo Bills (13/2) – for any of whom a case can easily be made. 

But this is a Detroit Lions side that won seven of their final ten regular season games to catapult their way up the NFC standings, completing the third-most offensive yards in the entirety of the NFL and the fourth-most touchdowns. 

It’s their somewhat fragile defence – the Lions shipped 395 points in 17 regular season games, which compares rather unfavourably to the Ravens’ 280 as just one example – that will likely undermine their Super Bowl ambitions, but if they can improve in that area then who knows? 

For Okwara, a fourth-season veteran at Detroit at the age of just 26, there’s still hope that he can become the sixth British-born player to win the Super Bowl. 

Following in the Footsteps 

For a sport so rooted in North America, it may come as a surprise that five Brits have a Super Bowl ring to their names. 

Scott McCready was the first British-born player to win the Super Bowl – doing so with the New England Patriots in 2022, while Croydon’s Marvin Allen was on the practice squad of the Pittsburgh Steelers; he still claimed a Super Bowl ring when they won the 2009 edition. 

Although initially a football talent of some repute, Lawrence Tynes was persuaded to try out for the American version of the sport – before long, the Scot was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001. 

Taking on the specialist role of kicker, Tynes won two editions of the Super Bowl for the New York Giants in 2008 and 2012 alongside the next player on our list – he’s also the only player in NFL history to have kicked two winning field goals in overtime.   

Osi Umenyiora, born in Golders Green no less, was a colossal defensive end and teammate of Tynes’ at the Giants.

Twice selected for the Pro Bowl, Umenyiora was a key figure in New York’s victories in Super Bowl XLII and XLVI. 

London-born Jay Ajayi was a formidable track and field athlete, so it’s no shock he decided to harness his natural speed and power on the American football field.

Initially drafted by the Miami Dolphins, it was a trade to the Philadelphia Eagles that landed Ajayi his Super Bowl success in 2018. 

So, there are some pretty big shoes for Okwara to fill.

Featured image by Adrian Curiel on Unsplash 

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