INDIANAPOLIS – While Daniel Adongo's first days in America were spent trying to make the Colts' roster, Henoc Muamba, a native of the Congo, moved with his family to Canada while young and has spent the years since honing his football talents at linebacker.
Signed by Indianapolis in February after playing three seasons for Winnipeg, Muamba finds his transition going smoothly.
"I feel comfortable here. It's a great opportunity, I'm embracing it," said Muamba, a 2013 CFL All-Star with 171 career tackles and four sacks. "It's going to be a great challenge because of the change. It's not easy to play in the NFL, I understand that, but there's great veteran leadership in this locker room. The coaches are tremendous. I'm so glad I chose this team."
Ryan Grigson has landed players from the CFL before, notably linebackers Jerrell Freeman and Justin Hickman.
Adongo came from Kenya and rugby, while Grigson landed linebacker Josh McNary after military service and tight end Erik Swoope off a basketball court.
This is not a jobs or cultural program. It is a football team with Super sights, and Grigson beat other teams to the punch by landing Muamba. The 25-year old (6-0, 238 pounds) is looking for his role.
"It's (the NFL) very balanced in terms of running and passing here," said Muamba. "Jerrell and Justin told me the biggest difference has been at the line of scrimmage. Guys here in the NFL have been a lot stronger, faster, more athletic (on the) offensive and defensive line.
"It's something to get used to. I'll use my hands more to be able to shed blocks and read better in the backfield. That's one of the things I'm (doing)."
Muamba believes his background is one that is helping him mentally.
His parents were able to converse in African dialects before they moved the family to Montreal when Muamba was young. With French being common in the Congo, he is fluent more in that than the dialects.
After living in Montreal, the family moved to Toronto and then to a suburb, Mississauga. Muamba attended St. Francis Xavier in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, broadening his cultural base with a chance to keep playing.
From 2007-10, his 149.5 tackles set the school mark and he twice was the conference's defensive player of the year. **Muamba (click here) was the first overall CFL draft pick in 2011**.
As a CFL rookie, Muamba saw Freeman in full flourish with Saskatchewan and noted how the two-time Grey Cup participant conducted business.
"I remember vividly seeing him. The reason why I noticed him was because he was able to play special teams very well, be effective and play on defense at a very high level," said Muamba. "You notice someone like that.
"When he made the transition, it definitely inspired and motivated me to up my game – be that type of player who is able to impact two phases of the game."
When his time came, Muamba received a call directly from Grigson, a move other Colts have cited as meaningful when NFL teams approached.
"I got a call from Mr. Grigson, and I was overjoyed," said Muamba. "I had a bunch of other teams interested. I was preparing for workouts and went through a bunch before the decision was made.
"My heart was definitely in Indianapolis. It was the first call. (What) I really liked about the call that I got with the Colts was that it was the GM himself. No other team did that. It showed how he felt about me as a player and person."
Hickman and Freeman serve as reference tools in terms of a conversion table from the CFL to the NFL. It is a different sized field with other competition nuances. Muamba's intellect allows him to absorb schemes and instruction from coaches.
The roster now is 90 players. The aim is to make it at 53.
"There's a difference between the CFL and NFL. It's a slight adaptation that's doable," said Muamba. "I think it's easier going from the CFL to the NFL, compared to the guys I played with in the CFL who had to come from the NFL.
"Here, it's being alert to the little things – being precise on technique and aware of formations. That's what I'm trying to pick up and make habit so I don't have to think so much out there. At the of the day, it's football. Football is football. It's about learning the system. It's essential, or you can't excel."