TRAILBLAZING Zimbabwean sports star Stansly Maponga looks set to prolong his career in the highly lucrative American National Football League (NFL) after being signed by the five-time Super Bowl winners Dallas Cowboys last week.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The 26-year-old defensive end, who in 2014 became the first Zimbabwean to play in the NFL, on Wednesday completed his move to the Dallas Cowboys, who decided to sign him to fill the vacant spot on their 10-man practice squad.
The move came as a massive boost for Maponga, whose flirtation with the money-spinning NFL looked to have run its course last month after he was released by the New York Giants after a difficult pre-season.
His latest move ensures he retains his place among the sport’s elite in the US at one of the biggest NFL franchises in the US.
The Cowboys, who joined the NFL as an expansion team in 1960, became the first sports team to be valued at $4 billion, making it the most valuable sports team in the world, according to Forbes in 2015.
A year earlier, Dallas Cowboys also generated $620 million in revenue, a record for a US professional sports team.
Maponga will be eager to make a positive impression at the Cowboys, which also coincides with his return to his hometown Dallas, where he made his breakthrough in college football as a standout at Texas Christian (TSU).
Maponga was born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1991 and migrated to the US at the age of nine. While in the US, he loved soccer and rugby, but ended up playing American football instead.
His NFL breakthrough came when he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
Maponga would go on to enjoy his most notable NFL season a year later when he registered two fumble recoveries and a sack as a rotational player.
He was subsequently released by the team in 2015 and later signed with Atlanta’s practice squad. The New York Giants signed him to their active roster in 2015 and he bounced around on New York’s active roster and practice squad.
The 6-foot-2 (1,8m) pass rusher can play outside linebacker or defensive end.