8 Immigrant Footballers of NFL’s Hall of Fame

May 23rd, 2014 by Romona Paden

Football—of the variety requiring players to wear pads and helmets—is thought of as a quintessentially American sport. And though distinctly foreign to much of the world, immigrants from around the globe have included American football as a part of their U.S. identity—as seen both on the field and in the front office.

The history of football’s biggest game—the NFL Super Bowl Championship—includes two foreign-born nationals who were named most valuable player (MVP). Mark Rypien, born in Canada, was quarterback for the Washington Redskins’ Super Bowl XXVI win. Hines Ward, natively from South Korea, was voted MVP when he helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win Super Bowl XL with his role of wide receiver.

Eight foreign-born former players have been inducted into the NFL’s Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio:

football visa1. Bronko Nagurski

Home Country: Canada

Team: Chicago Bears

Position: Fullback




Steve_Van_Buren2. Steve Van Buren

Home Country: Honduras

Team: Philadelphia Eagles

Position: running back


3. Arnie Weinmeister

Home Country: Canada

Team: New York Giants

Position: Defensive tackle


  • Tom_Fears
  • 4. Tom Fears

  • Home Country: Mexico

  • Team: Los Angeles Rams

  • Position: Receiver




5. Ernie Stautner

Home Country: Germany

Team: Pittsburg Stealers

Position: Defensive Lineman



6. Leo Nomellini

Home Country: Italy

Team: San Francisco 49ers

Position: Defensive and offensive tackle



JanStenerud7. Jan Stenerud

Home Country: Norway

Team: Kansas City Chiefs

Position: Placekicker



Ted_Hendricks8. Ted Hendricks

Home Country: Guatemala

Team: Baltimore Colts, Green Bay Packers and the Oakland Raiders

Position: Defensive end


Besides players on the field, however, immigrants also make up part of the NFL ownership profile. In 2005, German-born Zygi Wilf, the son of Holocaust survivors, became owner of the Minnesota Vikings through a partnership purchase. The reported price of the franchise was $600 million.

A few years later, another immigrant owner entered on the NFL scene through Shahid Kahn. Kahn bought the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011 and hails from Lahore, Pakistan. Now in his middle 60s, Kahn immigrated to the U.S. when he was only 16 years old, saying he was seeking an “education, fame and fortune.” Considering Kahn attended the University of Illinois, that he’s well-loved football fans in the Jaguar home state of Florida, and that he paid $760 to become the Jaguar owner, it seems safe to say, “Mission accomplished!”

The Americanism of football is absolutely a fact. And that immigrants know how to play that game is winner for the sport.

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