weather icon Partly Cloudy

Raiders report: International rookie savors 1st taste of football

David Agoha watched the replay several times and still couldn’t fully believe what was on his screen.

There he was, less than a year into his journey as a football player, recording a sack in an NFL preseason game against the Rams on Saturday night at SoFi Stadium.

“I saw some clips, and I was like, ‘Damn, is that me?’” said Agoha, a defensive end from Nigeria. “No words can explain it.”

Agoha, 22, was playing professional basketball when he was approached about entering the NFL’s International Player Pathway program. He didn’t know much about football, outside of being a fan of the original “The Longest Yard” movie.

But after two months at the IMG Academy in Florida, Agoha and the seven other members of this year’s class were assigned to NFL rosters in the AFC West or NFC North. Players in the program don’t count against their team’s roster limit for the offseason. The Raiders will have the option of keeping him on the final 53-man roster or waiving him next week, but if he is unclaimed, he can be brought back to the practice squad and not count against the 16-man limit for the rest of the year.

Agoha has been impressive on and off the field, making a significant enough impact with his teammates that his sack sparked a mass celebration Saturday.

“I just think that’s really cool for him,” coach Josh McDaniels said. “The first sack and then the response from the team says a lot about David and the kind of kid he is.”

Nobody was happier than Agoha, who also tried boxing and soccer growing up only to constantly be told he had the body for football even though there was no place to play the sport.

“I was so excited,” he said. “I was screaming so hard, I got lightheaded. That’s my first sack ever. Just starting football this year and getting a sack, it’s a blessing I can’t even explain.

“The love is so much. When I got the sack, the whole sideline came to me and celebrated. It was just crazy.”

There was also a celebration back home in Nigeria. Agoha said he returned to his locker after the game to more than a hundred Instagram messages.

Agoha hopes to continue to make strides and be a successful NFL player. He thinks he has made the biggest leap against the run since he’s been with the Raiders after spending much of his time learning pass-rush moves at the academy.

The eight players who came through the program this year bring the total to 37, with four currently on active rosters.

One of them is Raiders fullback Jakob Johnson, who participated in 2019.

“David’s situation is a little different,” Johnson said earlier in training camp. “Obviously, he came directly from Nigeria, never played football before. … He still has a lot to learn, a long journey ahead of him, but he’s definitely putting the work in every day and coming to work with the right mindset.”

Agoha has loved every part of the process, especially taking the field for the first two times for preseason games.

“I was nervous at first, but once you get into it, it’s like it’s natural,” he said. “It’s all I imagined and more. The atmosphere being so electric, it’s just crazy. I’m still kind of in shock.”

Raiders lose linebacker

Second-year linebacker Darien Butler was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, likely ending his season. He appeared to suffer an injury on a punt during Saturday’s game.

Butler made the original 53-man roster last season after signing as an undrafted free agent out of Arizona State. He appeared in 15 games, mostly on special teams, and recorded 11 tackles.

Practice report

Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow (shoulder) and cornerback Brandon Facyson (leg) returned to practice Tuesday, though they were in red noncontact jerseys. Defensive end Chandler Jones was among a group still not participating.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

Like and follow Vegas Nation