Three Steelers players will be taking part in the NFL Heritage initiative to promote international diversity. The NFL is undertaking the initiative over the next two weeks, when players can wear a flag helmet decal of the country or territory that represents their nationality or culture.
The initiative showcases the global influence of the NFL, with over 50 nations and territories represented. Players are able to wear, alongside the American flag, the flag of a country they lived in for two years or more or have a parent or grandparent who were born there. Coaches are also able to participate as well with patches on their jackets.
"As we continue to prioritize the NFL's growth globally, we're proud to have our players and coaches honor their backgrounds through the NFL Heritage Program," said Peter O'Reilly, Executive Vice President Club Business, International and Events at the NFL. "This initiative allows us to celebrate the heritage, families and cultures that make up the fabric of the League, and truly showcases the growing global reach and impact of the sport of football and the NFL."
Over 330 players and coaches league-wide are involved, and among those taking part are Larry Ogunjobi (Nigeria), Chukwuma Okorafor (Nigeria) and Obinna Eze (Nigeria).
"I think it's amazing," said Ogunjobi. "My parents were immigrants. I'm a first generation Nigerian here in the States. I think there are more than 80 players who are Nigerian playing in the NFL.
"It means a lot to me and my countrymen to wear that flag and represent our country. We don't come from much, but it's exciting to do these things and represent our country in the right way and be a part of something special."
Ogunjobi's parents, Larry and Mercy Ogunjobi, moved to the United States in 1993, the year before he was born. He has committed himself to continually striving for more to honor the sacrifices they made.
"We come from humble beginnings, and I think about it every day, what they went through to get me here and get me a better life, better opportunity," said Ogunjobi. "I try to repay them every day with my work and how I attack every day."
He will be joined by Okorafor wearing the Nigerian flag, which will be worn by more players than any other flag.
Okorafor, who was born in Nigeria, also understands the sacrifices hat were made for them to have the lives they have now.
"It means a lot to do this," said Okorafor. "We all made it to the NFL, but you have to remember what your parents did for us to make it here. I look back on my life every day, what my mom and dad had to do for us to be here. It means a lot."
For Eze, he never imagined football would be his profession when he was growing up in Nigeria, and even when he came to the United States with dreams of playing basketball, he didn't know what football was.
Now, he is able to represent his home country in a way that makes him beam with pride.
"Now I see NFL Africia, but eight and a half years ago when I came to the United States, football wasn't existent. I hadn't seen a football until I got to the U.S.," said Eze. "To know that the sport has grown so much, my countrymen, there are a lot of us here now playing, people that were born here. I was born and raised in Nigeria, and I came here and started learning football. It's a good development. It's good to feel like you belong. A lot of times, in the early stages of football for me, it felt like it was something different I was doing. Up until now my parents didn't understand the game, my sisters don't understand the game. At least it feels good to know my country is getting the recognition it deserves. It's something I am proud of. It would be an honor to have that sticker on the back of my helmet.
"Football is an American game, played mostly in America. You would expect most of the people playing to be American. Anytime you can share the game with people from the same country as you, who carry the same flag as you, that is always a big deal. I respect that. I care about that."