|London game takes Giants' Umenyiora back to his birthplace|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 24 October 2007 12:17|
Umenyiora will be going home for the first time since he was 7 years old when the Giants travel to London to play the Miami Dolphins in the first NFL regular-season game to be played overseas.
The 25-year-old Umenyiora doesn't remember much of his time in England. He was born and raised there until his family moved their communications business back to Nigeria.
His one recollection:
``Just that it was cold and it rained all the time,'' Umenyiora said.
Other than that, he has hazy memories of growing up in Golders Green in North West London, which he said is about 20 minutes from Wembley Stadium, where the Giants will play on Sunday.
His cockney accent is gone and he can't even resurrect it for show. He recalls playing soccer as a youth, but it was mostly pick-up games.
``I just remember we used to run all the time and race each other,'' Umenyiora said. ``That is pretty much about it.''
Some teammates have approached Umenyiora about being a tour guide during their four-day visit, but that only makes him laugh.
``They had better not, they would be lost,'' Umenyiora said. ``I don't know where I am at; I don't know where I am going. We are all the same when we get out there.''
The one thing that Umenyiora will have is a personal fan club. He has two cousins living in London and his mother, Chinelo, is flying in from Nigeria to see her son play for the first time in person. In all, Umenyiora estimates he will have 20 family members and friends at the game.
``It is real exciting, but it is not going to make me play any harder than I was going to play hard already,'' Umenyiora said. ``I don't think that it is any extra motivation because I just don't believe in things like that. If that was the case, I need to give the Maras and the Tisches back all the money that I have taken from them.
Umenyiora is one of the major reasons the Giants (5-2) are coming into the game riding a five-game winning streak. His eight sacks are tied for the league-lead with Jared Allen of Kansas City.
Six of them came in a win over Philadelphia on Sept. 30 and earned Umenyiora his first NFC defensive player of the week award. The five-year veteran picked up his second player of the week award earlier this week for his grand slam play against 49ers quarterback Trent Dilfer in the Giants' 33-15 win over San Francisco on Sunday.
With New York leading 19-7, Umenyiora sacked Dilfer, forced a fumble, recovered it and returned the ball 75 yards for his second career touchdown.
Umenyiora believes English fans will enjoy American football.
``They have to,'' he said. ``What is not to enjoy about it? They enjoy rugby and stuff like that, so I think they will like football.''
Umenyiora himself wasn't introduced to the game until he came to the United States as a 14-year-old to get an education, living in Auburn, Ala. A friend, Sean Montgomery, kept telling him to play the game because he was big and athletic. He became a defensive tackle, not quite knowing what he was doing.
``I was just out there,'' Umenyiora said. ``I was pretty much running around. I don't remember anything in particular. I know I really wasn't that good in high school.''
Umenyiora played college football at Troy, got picked by the Giants in the second round of the 2003 draft and is returning his England as one of the top defensive ends in the league.
``I don't really think of it like that, to be honest with you,'' Umenyiora said. ``I just need to continue to make plays and I want to make more plays when I get out there, so I don't really think about the fact that I am going back to London.''
His only goal this week is to get the Giants a win over the Dolphins (0-7) heading into the bye week.
He also wouldn't mind getting some applause from his countrymen.
``They should. I am British. I have a British passport,'' Umenyiora said. ``They should give me a little extra cheer. It should be a home game for us, not Miami.''
For Umenyiora, it will be a home game.