EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Babatunde Aiyegbusi has limited American football experience in leagues in Germany and his native Poland. Yet the 27-year-old offensive tackle is getting a shot at the NFL.
He is the latest example of the obsessive search by NFL teams for unknown talent, a hunt unbounded by U.S. borders. Hulking at 6-foot-9 and 350 pounds, it’s a wonder how Aiyegbusi has ever been hidden.
“I consider myself as a smart guy, so I feel like I can handle the playbook,” Aiyegbusi said, catching his breath after a recent practice. “But still, in Europe, my physique was good enough for beating everyone. And down here, you guys are big and strong. And they’ve got good technique. If he’s not stronger than you, he’s probably got better technique and knows what you will do before you do it, actually.”
His name is pronounced bah-BUH-toon-day ah-YEHG-boo-sehee. It’s Nigerian, the nationality of his father who moved to Poland and met Aiyegbusi’s mother. Aiyegbusi is married with a 3-year-old son, a family he returned to this weekend after three months away for workouts with the Vikings.
“The guy is truly a sponge. He absorbs all the information. Completely coachable,” Vikings offensive line coach Jeff Davidson said. “We are starting from ground zero, though, so I know as a coach I have to be patient.”
His team in the top Polish league, the Wroclaw Giants, won the championship in 2013. Texas Tech assistant coach Kevin Curtis has contacts overseas and alerted agent Jeff Griffin to a highlight video of Aiyegbusi, who’s ineligible for college ball because he’s been paid in Europe. Griffin had a hard time believing the film.
“He’s running down the field almost catching the running back after he blocks. I’m like, ‘Man, is this real?’ ” Griffin said.
Aiyegbusi is hungry to soak up as much skill and strategy of the sport as he can to share with Polish teammates.
Even if this experience doesn’t last past August, he’ll always be an ambassador to Poland of the game he’s become so fond of.
“My opportunity is just for them to get better,” Aiyegbusi said. “Everything that I learn here I will bring back home one day and then teach them.”
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