Rwanda: Who is Rugamba, the First Rwandan to Join NFL?

US-based Emmanuel Rugamba made headlines over the weekend after he signed a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Browns to become the first Rwandan to join the National Football League (NFL).

The NFL, the highest professional level of American football in the world, is one of the four major North American professional sports leagues, alongside the Major League Baseball (MLB), the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the National Hockey League (NHL).

Prior to joining the NFL, Rugamba, who was a three-year member of the Miami University football team, established himself as one of the most physical cornerbacks in the 2021 draft class.

The footballer and member of Mid-American Conference (MAC) couldn't hide the pride in representing Rwanda at the NFL, despite going through a challenging journey from being born in a refugee camp in Zambia before he and his family headed to the United States when he was aged three.

"The little boy born in a refugee camp just became a Cleveland Brown," the 22-year-old posted on Twitter shortly after signing for Cleveland Browns on Sunday, May 2.

Reacting to the transfer the defensive back said, "This means the world to me, I just want to make a difference the best way I know-how. Forever proud to be Rwandan."

Son of Daniella Umutanguha, Rugamba began his career at the University of Iowa where he spent the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

He later joined the Miami Red Hawks where he earned third-team All-MAC honors in both 2019 and 2020 and was the Mid-American Conference Championship Defensive Player of the Game his junior season.

The 22-year-old comes in at 1.80m and 89 kg and says his biggest attribute is knowledge of the game and adaptability.

During the three games that Miami played last year, the Defensive back amassed 11 tackles and a 62-yard pick-6 versus Akron.

Rugamba majors in sport leadership and management while at Miami University, which is home to Miami Red Hawks.

He is a scrappy competitor who gets after it in the run game and has the ability to match physicality despite a smaller frame, bringing subtle confidence to the position.

He has fantastic instincts in zone coverage, showing a clear understanding for routes developing in front of him in addition to enough short-area quickness to close fast on underneath routes.

With this level of physicality, teams could potentially value Rugamba inside as nickel or safety convert down the road.

There may be some limitations to his game as a full-time participant on the perimeter. He lacks the requisite size to consistently handle more lengthy wide receivers on a snap-to-snap basis.

Even so, there is clearly a role for Rugamba on the next level and, with his combination of awareness, physicality and versatility, he could warrant some playing time inside relatively early in his professional career.

editor@newtimesrwanda.com

Follow https://twitter.com/@Eddie_250

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