Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 3/28/13
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. Osi Umenyiora was 13 when he emigrated from London to Auburn, Ala. His first sport was the European version of football. The nimble 6-foot-3, 255-pounder still likes to dabble in the game, and that it has helped his footwork as a premier pass-rusher in the American version of the sport that shares the same name. Umenyiora only played two years of high school football, and so the big Southeastern Conference powerhouse in his hometown did not recruit him. No one did, he said. Instead, he was forced to go 75 miles away to play at Troy State (now Troy). For 14 years, Umenyiora's parents have lived 90 miles away from Auburn in metro Atlanta, as does his 5-year-old son. Umenyiora has called Atlanta home for 10 years; and so when he officially signed with the Falcons on Thursday, he called it a dream never allowing himself to imagine this would become real, as it seemed too good to be true. In joining the Falcons the top seed in the NFC playoffs in 2010 and '12, and a team that fell just short of a Super Bowl berth a few months ago Umenyiora said he is joining the most talented team he has ever been on. That's a big statement for a player who won two Super Bowl trophies as a member of the New York Giants. When questioned about it later, Umenyiora stood behind his words. "Talent is just on paper," he said. "Plenty of talented teams get punched in the mouth ... The difference is all mentality. It's all the players: how well they play together, how well they come together as a team and that's going to determine whether we're going to be good or not." Indeed, with free-agent signings like Umenyiora and running back Steven Jackson on top of retaining All-Pro tight end Tony Gonzalez, Pro-Bowl safety William Moore and starting left tackle Sam Baker, the expectations will be through the roof. After cutting John Abraham on March 1, the Falcons finally landed his replacement in the form of Umenyiora. According to the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the two-year deal will cost the Falcons 12.2 million, with 5 million guaranteed in 2013. In Umenyiora, the Falcons get a player who is 3 12 younger than Abraham, at 31. They also have one whose production has slipped in recent seasons, going from 11.5 sacks in 2010 to nine in 11 to six last season (Abraham had 10). From 2010-12, Abraham totaled 32.5 sacks in 46 games, or 0.7 per game. Over the same time period, Umenyiora has totaled 26.5 in 41 games, a slightly lower rate at 0.65, but the fact that Abraham stayed markedly healthier is significant. Umenyiora missed seven games in 2011 a year the Giants won the Super Bowl but narrowly qualified for the postseason, which could have been attributed, part, to Umenyioras absence.
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