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David Agoha forging his own path to NFL with hopes to grow football internationally

At the end of his media availability following the preseason victory against the Rams, Head Coach Josh McDaniels had a question of his own for the reporters.

"No David Agoha questions, huh?" McDaniels, with a grin, asked the room.

He seemed shocked no other reporters mentioned the edge rusher – acquired through the NFL International Pathway Program – who sacked Brett Rypien for the team's lone sack in the game.

The media in the room gave a chuckle, but the head coach was serious. If no one was going to ask about Agoha, he was going to address the young player regardless.

"I just think that's really cool," McDaniels said. "For him, the first sack and then the response from the team I think says a lot about David and the kind of kid he is. So really happy to see him do that."

What makes Agoha's sack so impressive is not that was it was in his second game in the NFL, it came in his second football game of his life. As a matter of fact, Agoha had never stepped foot on an American football field until 2022.

He grew up in Festac Town, a federal housing estate in Lagos, Nigeria – the most populated city in the continent of Africa. Agoha used New York City as a comparison to the "go here, go there, always moving" mentality of Lagos. Despite never playing football growing up, he was active in many sports. From as early as he can remember he played soccer, basketball, table tennis and boxing.

In his senior year of high school, he went through a growth spurt that took him from 5-foot-9 to around his current height of 6-foot-4. With the growth spurt came an abundance of athleticism with it. So much athleticism, he nearly went pro in two other sports before entering the NFL.

"I just wanted to do something different. Do the right thing and be on the right path," Agoha said. "We had a lot of sports so when you're a little kid, whatever your friends are doing, you just do it. Sometimes it might be soccer, sometimes it might be table tennis, but when I really started getting serious [about sports] it was boxing."

After years of training, he was preparing to move to America to become a professional boxer. It never came to be as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing him to stay in Nigeria. During the pandemic, he shifted his focus to basketball.

Modeling his game after Giannis Antetokounmpo, a two-time NBA MVP who's also of Nigerian descent, Agoha earned a spot on the Invaders of Ado Ekiti in Nigeria's Premier Basketball League. He still holds that time in his life near to his heart, as the friends he made playing basketball helped take his mind off the stresses of the pandemic.

Basketball also gave him something besides his friends: an introduction to the game of football. Agoha was a member of Educational Basketball, an exclusive player development program for African athletes. Former All-Pro defensive lineman Osi Umenyiora reached out to Educational Basketball to see if they had any athletes who could potentially make the transition over to football and would like to participate in a camp. Agoha was top of mind.

"I was one of the first people that got called up," Agoha said of participating in the NFL Africa camp. "I think they saw clips of me dunking and they just called me up. I knew nothing about football bro. I'd seen movies, but it just seemed brutal. I was just like, 'What's going on here?' I knew nothing about football to be honest with you.

"I knew it was hard sport because I heard people get injured, so I was kind of skeptical at first. I didn't know if I could do this. But I had to give it a shot."

In the process of learning the game, he became "fascinated" with everything surrounding football. He studied pass rushers David Ojabo, Von Miller, Kayvon Thibodeaux and Obo Okoronkwo. Following the NFL Africa camp, he spent two months training at IMG Academy in Florida where at the end, players were given the opportunity to try out in front of pro scouts. Agoha was then selected as one of the eight players to join a team as a part of the International Pathway Program.

"I was in shock because we had so many good players at the Pathway house. I believed in myself, I was so happy. I was ready to go. My mom was crying, my dad was so proud, because no one has really done this from where I'm from. It's just a blessing."

Upon arriving to the Raiders, he only knew about the city of the Las Vegas from "The Hangover" movie franchise. He put his head down and grinded through his first Training Camp. He credited his teammates and coaches for helping him get acclimated to America and the NFL, noting Chandler Jones as a veteran presence who has helped the most, selflessly giving advice when needed.

The time and energy Agoha has put into this new career has garnered much respect from his teammates, who were just as ecstatic as him when he recorded his first sack. Since he started his football journey, his ultimate dream was getting a sack in an NFL game.

"I got the sack and I was so excited and I was just screaming," Agoha said. "I got lightheaded and had to step out to go to the sideline and get oxygen after my sack. I never screamed so hard in my life. I got the game ball too. It's right in my room, I'm going to frame it.

"I was so in shock," continued Agoha. "I was like, 'I just got here and I got a sack? In my second game?' It was so surreal and the love I got from my teammates was just perfect."

The Raiders must trim the roster down to 53 players by Tuesday, and they'll have the option of placing Agoha on the 53-man roster or add him to the practice squad without counting against the 16-man limit for the rest of the season due to the international player exemption.

"This is just going to keep growing the game back in Africa," Agoha said. "I think there's four people that came from Africa this year, so just imagine the people that are following us alone and just started watching football. And then their friends and family starting football, it's just going to grow.

"The Pathway Program gives us a chance. We're good athletes at the end of the day, but we don't really have the opportunities to play and be us. It's a win-win situation to be honest."

View the best photos from the Raiders' Preseason Week 3 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

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