Trailblazing Maponga joins one of sport’s iconic franchises

> Robson Sharuko

Harare- STANSLY MAPONGA, the trailblazing Zimbabwean star who caused a storm back home with some remarks that appeared to mock his upbringing in his country, has struck gold by signing for iconic American football franchise, the New York Giants.

He joins the four-time Super Bowl champions, one of the world’s biggest sporting franchises, from the Atlanta Falcons where he was part of their practice squad.

Maponga thanked God for his dream move, using his Instagram account to announce that he had joined the Giants, and it triggered a wave of responses.

Some of them even questioned how the Atlanta Falcons let him go.

“Dear @atlantafalcons, your guys are f***en stupid for letting him go while you have s**tty Bierman and Jackson playing,” wrote someone whose identity is greyes78.  “Show the Falcons they were stupid to let you go.”

Another contributor, bsibanda, posted “Wow son, I am so proud of u son, God is good all the time. Whatever you do son, Put God first son.”

The defensive end’s move to New York set Twitter buzzing this week with many fans of the New York Giants welcoming him on board their family.

Trevon Rigatti, writing on Twitter, wished Maponga good luck in his new adventure.

“Congrats on signing to NY, good luck #ProFrogs,” wrote Rigatti.

Another fan, Larry Giambalvo, welcomed Maponga to “the classiest team in the NFL,” as the Zimbabwean begins a new and exciting phase of his career in the National Football League.

“Welcome to the classiest team in the NFL! Ready to see you out on the field! #bigblue #GIANTS”, Giambalvo said on Twitter.

Another fan said Maponga was just the player that the franchise needed.

“You are just what this team needs a fast man to get to the quarterback. #Giants #BigBlue #LETSGO,” he posted on Twitter.

The Giants announced at the weekend, on their official website, that they had signed Maponga who made history by becoming the first Zimbabwean to play in the National Football League.

“The Giants today signed defensive end Stansly Maponga off the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad,” the team said.

“The 6-foot-2, 265-pound TCU product was originally a fifth-round draft pick (153rd overall) by Atlanta in 2013.

“Maponga played in 24 career games with the Falcons – 12 each in 2013 and 2014 – before being waived by the Falcons prior to the start of the 2015 season.

“In his career, Maponga has recorded eight tackles and a sack, which was a for an 11-yard loss against Tampa Bay in Week 3 of last season. He also recovered two fumbles in 2014.

“As a defensive end, Maponga started 34 of 36 career games at TCU, recording 113 total tackles (63 solo) with 23 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, and four passes defensed. As a senior in 2012, he was selected to the All-Big 12 first team.

That came a year after he helped lead the Horned Frogs to the 2011 Rose Bowl.

“Maponga was born in Zimbabwe and grew up playing rugby until coming to the United States as a 9-year-old. After moving to Carrollton, Texas, he became the District 6-5A Defensive Player of the Year as a senior at Hebron High School.”

The Giants said they had an opening on the roster after waiving third-year defensive end Damontre Moore last week and decided that Maponga would be the right man for that job.

Club general manager, Jerry Reese, said the decision to release Moore was made in the interest of both parties.

Interestingly, Maponga and Moore are from the same draft class in 2013 where the Zimbabwean was a fifth round pick by the Falcons.

“Maponga has played in 24 games in his career (no starts). He appeared in 12 games for the Falcons in both 2013 and 2014, registering eight tackles, two fumble recoveries and a sack,” the franchise said as they introduced their latest acquisition.

“Maponga started 34 of 36 games at TCU. He had 15.5 sacks in his career, helping TCU win the Rose Bowl in 2011 and being named First Team All-Big 12 in 2012.

“Maponga is 6-foot-2, 265 pounds. He ran about a 4.8 40-yard dash coming out of college.”

The Giants were one of five teams that joined the NFL in 1925 and, of that group, they are the only one still in existence.

They are also the league’s oldest team in North Eastern America.

The Giants rank third in terms of achievements with eight NFL titles, four in the days before the Super Bowl, and four in the razzmatazz of the Super Bowl era.

They were champions in 1927, 1934, 1938, 1956, before the start of the Super Bowl, before winning the Super Bowl in 1986, 1990, 2007 and 2011.

Only the Green Bay Packers (13) and the Chicago Bears (nine) have won more titles.

Maponga joins an iconic franchise that has had 28 Hall of Famers, who include NFL Most Valuable Player winners, Mel Hein, Frank Gifford, Lawrence Taylor and Y.A. Tittle.

The athlete triggered a storm back in Zimbabwe when he appeared to mock his upbringing, claiming that he was so poor that he had to share shoes, and even hunted squirrels for a living.

He later apologised for his remarks after The Herald, the country’s leading newspaper, described him as a “stupid boy,” while many Zimbabweans reacted angrily.

Maponga said he wasn’t ready for that interview and could have said things out of context.

December 2015
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