INDIANAPOLIS –His path to the NFL is a blend of different Indianapolis Colts.
There’s the African heritage just like
Throw in an early basketball career similar to that of
Both of those lead to the most obvious comparison of former Canadian Football League star
“The Colts were definitely the first team to get in contact with me,” the articulate Muamba said last week.
“Mr. Grigson has been great to me from the first time that he contacted me. We’ve had some long conversations. He really showed that he trusted what he’s seen in terms of film. He loved my personality, the way I presented myself and what I was about as a whole, not just as a football player. I think the fact that he weighs so much the character of men, not just as football players, also played a role in (the signing).”
The recent story of Muamba takes us north of the border. The 6-0, 238-pound linebacker was the first overall pick in the 2011 CFL Draft after he set a school-record for career tackles at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.
Muamba’s story initially began though on the continent of Africa when he was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Feb. 23, 1989.
Around the age of seven, Henoc, his parents and his two brothers moved to Montreal, before relocating to the Toronto area a few years later.
Basketball was the game of choice for the Muamba brothers and for Henoc, the middle brother, football was non-existent until the 10th grade.
Muamba then took up the game simply for the “fun of it” and did it thanks to some coaxing from his high school coach and some additional pushing from his parents.
That extra itch for football slowly began to snowball when Muamba arrived to St. Francis Xavier University in the fall of 2007.
“I really started to feel the passion for the game, the love for it,” Muamba recalls. “I began to be more diligent in my craft. I studied more. I worked at it more. I prepared more to put myself in the best position possible.”
He left St. Francis Xavier University as a two-time Conference Player of the Year. Muamba was then taken with the first pick in 2011 CFL Draft by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
That first season in the CFL was a maturation process to the professional game for Muamba and his eye kept on turning west to the Saskatchewan Roughriders where Freeman, a future teammate, was making his mark.
“(Freeman) used to do a lot of great things in the CFL, on defense and on special teams,” Muamba says about a fellow CFL alum.
“Those are some of things that I looked up to. I believe it’s guys like him who kind of paved the way for people like myself, who were in situations where it didn’t seem possible to be in the spot that I am now.”
Similar to many CFL prospects, Muamba's progression was brought along at a gentle pace.
Muamba grew into a CFL All-Star last season with 106 tackles (second most in the CFL), 18 special teams stops in playing all 18 games.
Once the Blue Bombers season came to a close, Muamba headed to Texas to train for the opportunity he has received from the Colts.
Over half of the NFL contacted Muamba’s agent but once the 24-year old linebacker visited the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, he knew where he wanted to pursue his NFL dream.
Muamba says he is familiar with the Colts 3-4 defensive scheme and he considers himself a “sideline-to-sideline” linebacker. His presence on special teams is something he takes pride in and a major reason for the intrigue from numerous NFL teams.
In the end though, Muamba joins one of the most diverse locker rooms in the NFL and continues to write a journey that has spanned several languages and multiple hemispheres.
“It’s a blessing to be able to play for one of the teams that I looked up to and I’ve loved,” Muamba says. “With the conversations that I’ve had with coach Pagano and Ryan Grigson, they’ve definitely expressed how much character the whole team has and that’s really one of things that was so appealing to me. The belief system that’s in the locker room, it’s exciting to be apart of something that’s about to bloom. I look forward to being apart of it.”