Nigerian offensive lineman Chukwuebuka Jason Godrick has had a superb start to life at the Kansas City Chiefs, with 21 pass blocking snaps and no pressures to the quarterback in his first two games — ever — in preseason.
According the 22-year-old from Lagos, who was allocated to the Chiefs via the NFL International Player Pathway (IPP), his integration into the team has been seamless due to Patrick Mahomes and Travis Kelce, as well as fellow Nigerian Prince Tega Wanogho.
Godrick, who had never played an organised American football game till this preseason, told ESPN: “The whole O-line group is so amazing. I can’t imagine a better team for me to have come to.
“To my advantage, I have a Nigerian on the team [Wanogho]. He plays my position too, so it was a great connection. We hit it off from the jump… But to be honest, everyone in the O-line group, and even the superstars on the team, Patrick and Travis [have been especially welcoming].
“It was like, ‘Wow, ok! They know who I am!’ They were so welcoming and were very motivating. The little things I was doing right – the things they saw potential in – they were always ready to hype me up, give me a high five here and there and a ‘good job’ here and there.
“There’s a reason why they’re the champions. I can’t compare it to any other team, but just the feel of the way everybody is looking out to everybody and everybody is pushing their brother to do their best – it’s healthy competition across the board.”
It is little surprise that Godrick, who switched from basketball to American football like most of his fellow Nigerian IPP players, is thriving in a sink-or-swim environment after being allocated to the Chiefs.
He was on the verge of having to give up his professional sporting ambitions when the coaches at the Educational Basketball program in Lagos helped him switch to American football a year and a half ago. Since then, he has progressed in leaps and bounds.
“Chu’s dad had given him one year to figure out his sports career, or he was going to go to medical school. He had one month left to figure it out and that’s when he met us in December 2021,” Iseolupo Adepitan, who runs Educational Basketball with his brother, Olutobi, recalled.
“Chu has tremendous belief in himself and is a great leader. When we laid down the vision we had for him he was extremely confident that he could get to that elite level. He would drive up to three hours everyday, depending on the traffic, to workouts and even drop off some of the other athletes.
“He had the biggest improvement out of everyone physically and athletically. He came in at the size of a shooting guard/small forward in December 2021 at 6’5 [and] 215 [lbs] and by July 2022 he was at 6’6 [and] 275 lbs.
“Chu is the perfect example of what can happen for a homegrown Nigerian athlete when you commit to a team and vision and make the necessary sacrifices to get to that elite level. We believe he’s going to be a star in the NFL and a role model for the next generation of young homegrown Nigerian athletes to look up to.”
After Educational Basketball laid the foundation of that dream, Godrick took the next steps in his American football journey through Osi Umenyiora’s Uprise camps, and then the NFL Africa Touchdown camp in Ghana last year.
There, Umenyiora collaborated with NFL stars past and present including Mathias Kiwanuka, Roman Oben, Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Kwity Paye and Ogbo Okoronkwo to coach the top players identified through his personal scouting endeavors across the continent.
The top participants, like Godrick, CJ Okoye, and Kenneth Odumegwu, moved on to the NFL Academy and IPP Program.
While many of his peers understandably hesitate to set lofty goals for themselves from the get-go, Godrick knows precisely what he wants out of his first year in the NFL: to earn respect to the point where he is viewed as indistinguishable from teammates who have played American football all their lives.
“At the end of the year, I want to no longer be seen as, ‘He hasn’t played football before; he is new to the game’. I want to get to a level where I can be trusted more,” he said.
“The team does a great job to trust the work that I put in; that’s why they put me on the field. I’m just trying to elevate myself mentally to have a greater understanding of the game and to be known as impenetrable.
“When guys come against me, [I want them to be] like, ‘Oh wow, we have to prepare for Chu this week.”