JAY Ajayi is thrilled to be breaking new ground for Great Britain as he prepares for the NFL playoffs.
The Miami Dolphins running back has starred this season, with 1272 rushing yards, eight touchdowns and three separate 200-yard games — including against Sunday’s (Monday AEDT) wildcard-round opponents the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is not the first British player in the league, nor even in the playoffs — Scotland’s Lawrence Tynes kicked the New York Giants to Super Bowls XLII and XLVI, where he and London-born defensive end Osi Umenyiora won a pair of rings each.
Offensive linemen Menelik Watson and Lawrence Okoye and defensive counterparts Jack Crawford and Efe Obada are also currently on NFL rosters or practice squads — the latter Nigerian-born, but resident in the UK from the age of 10 and signed directly from the London Warriors by the Dallas Cowboys.
As a playmaker on offence, though, 23-year-old Ajayi enjoys a different profile and has become the poster boy for an emerging UK presence.
“It’s exciting to be the only skill player from the UK, even though there’s other UK guys in the NFL. I take pride in it and I just want to keep playing at a high level and representing well,” he said.
Injury cost Ajayi the first half of his rookie season while he began this year inauspiciously by being left out of the Dolphins’ opening game, having reportedly responded badly to the signing of rival back Arian Foster. The Londoner has since made up for lost time.
The Dolphins would welcome a repeat of Ajayi’s 206-yard, two-touchdown outburst from week six on Sunday, particularly with quarterback Ryan Tannehill out injured — Matt Moore will continue to deputise.
The Steelers’ defence is much improved since then and Heinz Field will make for an imposing setting.