Liberia's Alvin Kamara, patron Saint of touchdowns, breaks records and ankles

ByLeonard Solms ESPN logo
Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The fifth week of the NFL season belonged to Alvin Kamara, who starred in the New Orleans Saints' 34-0 blowout win over Bill Belichick's New England Patriots.

Kamara, who was born in Atlanta, Georgia, to a Liberian mother, was one of several African NFL stars who had a week to remember. Others include Yannick Ngakoue, Samson Ebukam, Bobby Okereke, Nate Landman, Jeff Okudah and Eli Apple.

African Player of the Week: Alvin Kamara (New Orleans Saints)

Kamara led the Saints offense at Gillette Stadium with 80 rushing yards spread out over 22 carries and a touchdown in a resounding win for the Saints.

The Saints had already taken the lead in the first quarter before Kamara set the tone for the second with his first touchdown of the season and his 73rd of his career - a record for the New Orleans Saints, who drafted him in 2017.

The Patriots could not gain a foothold in the game thereafter and the Saints claimed their third win of the season, with Kamara the man of the moment.

"Anytime you find yourself in a lull or rut ... you've got to find a way to fix it fast," Kamara said, referring to the Saints' 26-9 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their previous game.

"Sometimes you get those ruts and it compounds and it starts to just turn into your identity. That's the one thing we didn't want to happen, because we know what our identity is. We kind of got a chance to put it on display today."

African Moment of the Week: Yannick Ngakoue (Chicago Bears)

The Chicago Bears ended a 14-game losing streak with a 40-20 win over the Washington Commanders. Ngakoue, whose father is Cameroonian and mother is West Indian, played a pivotal role and popped up at an important moment with a sack on Sam Howell.

The Bears had gone into half-time 27-3 up, but had allowed the Commanders back into the game in the third quarter. The score was 30-20 with 7:52 remaining when Ngakoue made the sack on Howell, which played a pivotal role in swinging momentum back in favor of the Bears.

Kamara's record-breaking touchdown also made a strong case to be considered for Africa Moment of the Week, but given how dominant the Saints were against the Patriots, it is more likely that they could have done without that touchdown than it is that the Bears could have gone without Ngakoue's sack - his second of the season after previously picking one up against the Green Bay Packers.

Honorable mentions:

Nigeria's Samson Ebukam's heroic effort for the Indianapolis Colts played a role in their 23-16 win over the Tennessee Titans.

Ebukam picked up an injury early in the game and had to sit out most of it, but when he came back on the field, he did so with a vengeance, picking up three tackles and a sack throughout the course of the game.

Zimbabwe's Nate Landman and Nigerian-American Jeff Okudah also played telling roles defensively in another tight victory, as they helped the Atlanta Falcons edge the Houston Texans 21-19.

Nigerian-American Foyesade Oluokun made seven tackles in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 25-20 win over the Buffalo Bills, while Eli Apple, whose mother is Ghanaian and who has lived in the West African country, starred with nine tackles and half a sack for the Miami Dolphins against the New York Giants.

That game also saw Abidjan-born Kader Kohou pick up seven tackles for the Dolphins, while Nigerian-American Bobby Okereke was a lone standout player for the Giants.

Okereke has been heavily criticized in recent weeks, particularly after his performance against the Seattle Seahawks, but 10 tackles and an interception against the Dolphins had detractors eating their words.

Brandon Aiyuk and the San Francisco 49ers continued their perfect start to the season as the wide receiver, who is of Cameroonian descent, had four receptions for a total of 58 yards in a comfortable 42-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

CJ Uzomah made headlines for his rousing pre-game speech ahead of the New York Jets' clash with the Denver Broncos, in which he urged the team to avenge opposition coach Sean Payton's criticism of Jets opposite number Nathaniel Hackett's previous work with the Broncos. It appeared to do the trick as the Jets won 31-21, with the tight end of Nigerian descent contributing two receptions for 12 yards.

Africa-born players watch:

Ebukam and Landman's progress in the league shows the possibilities in the NFL for African-born players as they continue to exceed all expectations.

It was crucial for the Colts that Ebukam got back on the field after his early injury, as they were already missing fellow Africa-born star Kwity Paye. Ebukam, who was born in Onitsha, Nigeria, is proving to be one of the shrewdest free agency signings of the season, making a huge impact in a Colts side currently sitting at 3-2 for the season.

Landman, who was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, has barely put a foot wrong for the Falcons this season and his 16 tackles in his last two games have justified his growing role in the defensive unit in his second NFL season.

Elsewhere, South African-born Greg Joseph continued his 100% kicking record for the season, but the Minnesota Vikings lost 27-20 to defending Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Baltimore Ravens' Nigeria-born wide receiver, Nelson Agholor, recorded four receptions for 64 yards in the Ravens' 17-10 defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers, though a crucial fumble means his weekend will likely be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

The NFL airs on ESPN's channels in Africa.

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