The National Football League may be an American entity, but it has a growing Canadian element to it.

Whether it’s Canadian-born players or players who have graduated from the Canadian Football League, there are elements of the NFL that are of particular interest to football fans north of the border.

Oshiomogho (O.J.) Atogwe, a Windsor native, was drafted in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft and has blossomed into one of the premier safeties in the league. He’s what’s known as a ball hawk because of his proficiency in intercepting passes. He has 17 picks in four seasons, including eight in 2007, which led the National Football Conference.

In February, the Rams signed Atogwe to a one-year deal worth $6.342 million US. Suffice to say, he stands to reap even more financial rewards if he continues to play at this level.

In Chicago, defensive lineman Israel Idonije heads into his sixth season with the team. The native of Lagos, Nigeria, who grew up in Manitoba and graduated from the University of Manitoba has become a regular starter in the last two years.

Last year, Idonije had his most productive season in terms of sacks with 3½. In May, the Bears extended his contract through to the 2011 season and gave him a $2-million signing bonus. He is slated to receive $2.5 million in each of the next two seasons. Idonije, one of the few players in NFL to graduate from the Canadian university ranks, has reached these heights despite the fact he didn’t start playing organized football until university.

Another player from the Canadian post-secondary ranks is Dan Federkeil, who graduated from the University of Calgary as a tight end and signed as a free agent with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006 and was converted into an offensive lineman.

In New England, Brantford native Nick Kaczur has become a regular on the offensive line and now enters his fifth season.

Much attention from a Canadian perspective will be on defensive lineman Vaughn Martin, who played only two years at the University of Western, but impressed the San Diego Chargers enough to draft him in the fourth round and give him a multi-year contract.

Other Canadians of note include: Washington kicker Shaun Suisham; Seattle punter Jon Ryan; New Orleans cornerback Jason David; Jacksonville defensive tackle Rob Meier; Dallas long snapper L.P. Ladouceur; Seattle wide receiver Nate Burleson; and Indy receiver Sam Giguere.

Cam Wake, who was named the CFL’s outstanding defensive player the last two years, parlayed that into a contract with the Miami Dolphins. Running back Stefan Logan, a teammate of Wake’s in B.C., signed with Pittsburgh and survived pre-season cuts.

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