The Giants signed one of their most intriguing, noteworthy and unforeseen prospects of this or any offseason.
Roy Mbaeteka is a 6-9, 320-pound offensive tackle who has no high school or college football experience. That’s hardly surprising, considering he’s lived his entire life in Nigeria. His nascent football career has also included stops in London and Arizona. Now he’s heading to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center, where the Giants believe he can develop into an NFL-caliber lineman.
So does one of Mbaeteka’s mentors, former Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, who lived in Nigeria as a youngster and was perhaps the first to spot the 22-year-old’s talent.
“Once you see him, you know he’s physically imposing and in a year or two if you immerse him in football culture, he’s going to be fantastic,” Umenyiora said in a phone conversation from his home in London. “The Giants took a chance. Not much of a chance, I think. When you see him working, you’re going to know what he’s about.
“He is big, strong, physical, extremely intelligent, very athletic. He’s built to play offensive tackle in the league. In fact, he reminds me quite a bit of Kareem McKenzie (a former tackle who, like Umenyiora, played on the Giants’ Super Bowl XLII and XLVI teams). He has the same temperament. He’s very smart, but he’s a very athletic player.”
Umenyiora is thrilled the Giants are giving that chance to Mbaeteka.
“A lot of people think this was me, but I had nothing to do with this,” Umenyiora said. “The Giants decided they were going to fly him in. They did this on their own. They saw him, they liked him, they flew him in yesterday, and he blew them away. They offered him a contract and here we are. For it to be the Giants of all teams, it means the world to me, it really does.
“What the Giants have done here is truly hard to put into words. There are so many people in Nigeria and in Africa who are going to see this and right now they’re going to have hope. Before, they were hopeless. They’re going to see this as hope and they’re going to start working and working toward something, however unrealistic it is. At least now, they will see that it is possible. They’ve changed the world, they really have.”