Canadian defensive lineman David Onyemata proved why he’s worth $26 million dollars on Monday Night Football.
Onyemata recorded six total tackles, two quarterback hits, one tackle for loss and one sack on Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr. He was a physical presence on the interior all night long, though his Saints lost 34-24 to Las Vegas and dropped to 1-1.
Entering the 2020 NFL season, the 27-year-old had 123 tackles, 74 solo tackles, 9.5 sacks, three pass knockdowns and one forced fumble in 63 career games. Onyemata was drafted by New Orleans when the Saints traded up to select him in the fourth round, 120th overall during the 2016 NFL draft. It’s his fifth season in New Orleans.
Despite never having seen a football game in his native Nigeria before arriving in Winnipeg, Onyemata blossomed to win the 2015 J. P. Metras Trophy as the top down lineman in Canadian university football while at the University of Manitoba. That award capped an outstanding U Sports career.
“The first time I heard about football was in high school. Some of my buddies in the same grade were from the United States. We talked about it, but I didn’t really know what it was. I watched a couple CFL games on TV when I got to Canada—that was the first football I ever saw being played,” Onyemata said in January 2016.
Onyemata wowed NFL scouts from half the league’s teams with a pro day performance at Manitoba that would have had him atop a number of measurable categories should he have participated in the NFL combine.
It’s true that Onyemata had far less name recognition due to picking up the game late, suiting up in Canada and playing hundreds of fewer reps than an average NCAA player, but NFL personnel evaluators viewed it as a positive, especially the Saints who were awed by his athleticism.
That’s why New Orleans rewarded the six-foot-four, 300-pounder with a three-year contract, including a $10 million signing bonus. Onyemata is earning his money in prime time.