NFL: Foreign Players in History

Chris JohnsonContributor IIJuly 22, 2009

When we think of football, many of us might think of soccer. However, I'm writing about American football.

We know that football, or should I say American football, has been growing for years. It's just that the mainstream media does not cover American style football as much as, say, the NCAA or NFL.

And since Americans don't really realize the game is being played in other countries, my thoughts revolved around one question: "What foreigners have played American football professionally?"

Well, here's what I've come up with.



Morten Andersen (born in Copenhagen, Denmark) is the all-time leading scorer in the NFL with two different teams (New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons).

In college, Anderson played for the Michigan State Spartans. He set several kicking records, including a Big 10 Conference record: a 63-yard field goal against Ohio State. In 1981, Anderson was named an All-American.


Lino Dante "Alan" Ameche (born in Italy), nicknamed "The Horse," played for the Baltimore Colts after winning the Heisman Trophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1954, and was named an All-American.

In 1955, Ameche was awarded Rookie of the Year. Ameche gained fame for scoring the winning touchdown in the 1958 NFL Championship Game against the New York Giants, labeled "The Greatest Game Ever Played."

Ameche emigrated to the US with his family in the 1930s.

Leo Joseph Nomellini (born in Lucca, Italy) was a two-time All-American at the University of Minnesota. Nomellini was the San Francisco 49ers first-ever NFL draft selection in 1950. In the offseason, he was a professional wrestler called Leo “The Lion” Nomellini.


Cornelis Joseph Dennis "Neil" O'Donoghue (born in Dublin, Ireland) first came to the US to play soccer with Saint Bernard College. But when that college closed its soccer program, he went to play football at Auburn University.

He was the first Irish-born player in NFL history. O’Donoghue is most noted for missing three field goal attempts against the New York Giants as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1983 season, resulting in a 20-20 tie.


Raymond Henry Rowe (born in Rota, Spain) was a tight end with the Washington Redskins. He played college football at San Diego State University and was drafted in the sixth round for the 1992 NFL draft.


Halvor Reini Hagen (born in Oslo, Norway) played college football at Weber State University and was drafted in the third round of the 1969 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys. He then played for the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills.

Leif Love Dolonen Larsen (born in Oslo, Norway) played college football for the UTEP Miners and was drafted in the 2000 NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills.

Knute Kenneth Rockne (born in Voss, Norway) was a college football player. He later took on the role of coach.

As head coach of the University of Notre Dame from 1918 to 1930, he set the greatest all-time winning percentage in college football history. Rockne introduced the “shift,” moving the backfield into a T formation. Rockne is also credited for introducing the forward pass.

Jan Stenerud (born in Fetsun, Norway) was a college football player for Montana State University. In 1965, he kicked a 59-yard field goal against archrival Montana University (at that point, the longest field goal on record). Stenerud was one of the first professional football players used as a dedicated kicker. He was also the first to use "soccer-style" for his kicks.

Stenerud was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in 1967. During his three years with Kansas City, Stenerud hit 70 percent of his field goals. He helped win Super Bowl IV against the Minnesota Vikings 23-7.

Stenerud kicked three field goals, scoring the first nine points of the game. His first kick, a 48-yarder, would remain the longest field goal in a Super Bowl until January 1994. Stenerud's name is in the Chiefs' ring of honor at Arrowhead Stadium.

In 1991, Stenerud was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 


Ove Johansson, (born  Gothenburg, Sweden) is the current holder of the longest field goal in NFL history with 69 yards.

Ola Fredrik Andreas Kimrin (born in Malmo, Sweden) was a college football player for the UTEP Miners in 1996. Kimrin played with the Frankfurt Galaxy (of the displaced NFL Europe). In 2002, he led the NFL Europe kickers in scoring with 57 points.

Bjorn Arne Nittmo (born in Lomma, Sweden) was the first Swedish-born player in NFL history when he was with the New York Giants. Nittmo played college football at Appalachian State University.


Charles Michael Romes (born in Verdun, France) was an NFL cornerback with the Buffalo Bills and the San Diego Chargers. He played college football at North Carolina Central University.

Richard Tardits (born in Biarritz, France) played college football at the University of Georgia. He held the record for most sacks in a career at his Alma Mater, until David Pollock broke his record in 2004. He was referred to as “Le Sack” by fans because of his French birth.

Tardits played for the New England Patriots in the NFL.


John Michael Alt (born in Stuttgart, Germany) played his college football at the University of Iowa. He was an offensive tackle with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1984-1996.

Unable to stay away from the game, Alt is now coaching the game he loves to high school players.

Zenon Andrusyshyn (born in Gunzburg, Germany) was born to Ukrainian parents. Ardrusyshyn played college football at UCLA, where he was a two-time All-American punter and was voted to UCLA’s All Century Team.

He was a punter and kicker for the Toronto Argonaunts (of the Canadian Football League) from 1971-1977 and 1979-1982. In 1978, Andrusyshyn played for the Kansas City Chiefs, and then later with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the United States Football League from 1983-1985.

Ivan "John" Jurkovic (born in Friedrichshafen, Germany) was a defensive tackle for the Green Bay Packers, Cleveland Browns, and Jacksonville Jaguars. He played his college football at Eastern Illinois University. Jurkovic is now a host of ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago.

Dominic Gerald Lowery (born in Munich, Germany) attended Dartmouth College. He has a MPA from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the first pro athlete to graduate from the school.

Lowery was a place kicker for the New England Patriots in 1978, the Kansas City Chiefs 1980-1993, and the New York Jets 1994-1996. Lowery was selected to three Pro Bowls. He retired No. 1, with the highest field goal percentage and most field goals in NFL history at 384.

Horst Herbert Erich Muhlmann (born in Dortmund, Germany) began his American football career in 1969 with the Cincinnati Bengals (from 1969-1974) and then with the Philadelphia Eagles (1975-1977).

Muhlmann quickly gained notoriety as one of the longest field goal kickers of the game, when he kicked field goals of 50 yards or more in three consecutive games. His record has only been matched by three other players.

Ernest Alfred Stautner (born in Prinzing, Germany) served in the United States Marine Corps before attending Boston College, where he was a four-year starter as an offensive and defensive tackle. Selected in the 1950 NFL draft, Stautner played his entire NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

In 1969, Stautner was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. From 1966 to 1988, He was an assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys, then served as the defensive coordinator for 1973 to 1988.

Sebastian Georg Vollmer (born in Dusseldorf, Germany) played his college football at the University of Houston, chosen in the 2009 NFL draft by the New England Patriots (58th overall). Vollmer arrived in Houston as a tight end. After back surgery, he moved to offensive tackle. He started 25 straight games for Houston.

Uwe Detlef Walter von Schamann (born in Berlin, Germany) played college football at the University of Oklahoma. During college, Von Schamann was a member of the 1975 National Championship team. He is most noted for his winning kick against Ohio State in 1977. Von Schamann was drafted by the Miami Dolphins, and ended his NFL career with 101 of 149 field goal attempts.


Dat Tan Nguyen (born in Vietnam) played his college football for Texas A&M. In 1998, Nguyen won the Big 12 Conference Defensive Player of the Year award. During that same year, Nguyen became the Defensive Player of the Game for the 1998 Cotton Bowl.

In the 1999 NFL draft, Nguyen was chosen by the Dallas Cowboys (85th Overall). He won the job as middle linebacker in 2001, silencing critics by leading the team in tackles. Nguyen is the first Vietnamese American ever to play in the NFL.


Harald Hasselbach (born in Amsterdam, Netherlands) was a defensive end, who played with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League for four years. He played for the Denver Broncos of the NFL from 1994 to 2000, and was a starter in Super Bowl XXXIII.

Who knows what the future might bring? If American football keeps growing, as it has, we might have a few more in "The Big Show."


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