Born on November 16, 1981, in London, England, Osi Umenyiora learned to play football after settling in the United States as a teenager. Despite his late introduction to the sport, he developed into a promising defensive end at Troy State University. Selected with the 56th pick in the 2003 NFL draft, Umenyiora became a two-time Pro Bowler and won two Super Bowl titles with the New York Giants.
Ositadimma "Osi" Umenyiora was born on November 16, 1981, in London, England. The son of Nigerian parents, he moved to his ancestral country as a young boy, where his father, John, was a king in the village of Ogbunike. Umenyiora later emigrated to the United States to live with his sister in Auburn, Alabama, and earn the chance for a better education.
Umenyiora played soccer growing up, but as a 250-pound teenager in a football-mad region, it was inevitable that he would be pushed to the gridiron. Playing alongside future college teammate and NFL All-Pro DeMarcus Ware, Umenyiora adjusted to his new sport after just two years with the Auburn High football team, and was recruited to play for Division I-AA Troy State University.
Osi Umenyiora steadily improved after sitting out his first year as a redshirt freshman, earning All-Southland first team honors as a sophomore defensive tackle. But he truly broke out when as a junior he shifted to defensive end, where his speed proved an asset for rushing opposing quarterbacks. As a senior, Umenyiora recorded 57 tackles and forced three fumbles, and was named an honorable mention All-American.
Umenyiora was not among the select group of players invited to the 2003 NFL Scouting Combine, but the New York Giants had been keeping close tabs on his development and surprised everyone by taking the unknown defensive end with the 56th overall pick in the NFL draft.
Umenyiora played sparingly in his rookie season, starting once in his 13 games. However, the Giants believed he would develop into a key member of their defense and refused to include him in a trade with San Diego for the rights to 2004 first overall draft pick Eli Manning. Umenyiora rewarded their faith with 7 1/2 sacks in 2004, and the following season he exploded for 14 1/2 sacks, second best in the NFL, and was honored with an All-Pro berth and Pro Bowl selection.
In 2007, Umenyiora recorded a franchise-record six sacks in Week 4 against the arch-rival Philadelphia Eagles, en route to a total of 13 and his second Pro Bowl selection. With Umenyiora anchoring a defensive unit that included veteran star Michael Strahan and talented youngster Justin Tuck, the Giants embarked on an impressive playoff run that culminated with a thrilling 17-14 victory over the undefeated New England Patriots for the Super Bowl championship.
Umenyiora suffered a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee in a preseason game the following year, and missed the entire 2008 season. He was back in top form in 2010, notching 11 1/2 sacks along with an NFL-record 10 forced fumbles.
More setbacks came the following summer. Umenyiora's frustrations with his contract bubbled to the surface, as he held out during training camp and publicly accused Giants general manager Jerry Reese of lying about a promise to renegotiate. He then underwent another knee operation that knocked him out of action for the start of the season. But Umenyiora notched nine sacks in as many games after returning in October, and he helped spur a late-season push that ended with another Super Bowl victory for the Giants. Shortly afterward, he met Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes, who would become his fiancée.
Umenyiora finally managed to get his contract reworked into a one-year deal for $7 million for the 2012 season, but followed with a disappointing campaign. Left unsigned by the Giants after 10 mostly successful seasons in New York, Umenyiora secured a solid two-year contract from the Atlanta Falcons, and pledged to return to his Pro Bowl form.
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