ZIMBABWE’S trail-blazing American football star Stansly Maponga has vowed to hit the ground running in his first full National Football League (NFL) season with the New York Giants after taking too long to find his feet at the Atlanta Falcons.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Maponga, a former Texas Christian University standout became the first Zimbabwe-born player in NFL history three years ago after being snapped up by the Atlanta Falcons.
He struggled to settle after his breakthrough move, registering just eight tackles, two fumble recoveries and just one sack in 24 games over the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
And now after being given a second opportunity by the New York Giants last December the 25-year-old defensive end said he was determined to make the most of his fresh start.
“It’s a fresh start with a new team. Coming from Atlanta, things didn’t work out over there,” Maponga told NJ Advance Media ahead of the start of the new season next month.
“But I’m glad I’m here. I’m glad I’m having this fresh start. The way I’m taking this year is, play any down like it’s my last. … I like where I’m at right now. I’ve just got to continue to be consistent.”
Maponga said being a trail-blazer in the NFL, where no Zimbabwe-born player has played before gave him extra motivation to do well for his franchise. “I’ve got to hold the standards. I’m holding the torch,” Maponga said.
Although Maponga is attempting to do something that does not occur all that often in the NFL — revive his career with a second team after being labelled a flop with his first, his coach backed him to bounce back strongly.
“He does a nice job situationally. He’ll flash in a pass rush for you,” New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo said.
“I think he has a skillset to work with and special teams. He just has to put it all together and be consistent, and play with that fire every snap.”
Maponga grew up in Zimbabwe playing rugby before relocating to the United States at age nine, where he was a standout in high school and college.
He had a strong collegiate career, starting 34 of 36 games at Texas Christian University where he had 15,5 sacks in his career, helping then win the Rose Bowl in 2011 and being named First Team All-Big 12 in 2012.
Maponga’s NFL breakthrough however came when he was selected by the Atlanta Falcons in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft.