Football is considered “America’s Game” but that hasn’t stopped many young athletes who were born outside of the United States from making a successful transition to the country’s most popular sport.
In recent years, there has been a steadily increasing influx of foreign-born players—especially defensive linemen—who’ve invaded “America’s Game.” Notable players such as Florida State’s Bjoern Werner (Germany), Alabama’s Jesse Williams (Australia), BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah (Ghana), SMU’s Margus Hunt (Estonia), Penn State’s Jack Crawford (England) and Virginia’s Brent Urban (Canada) all managed to make a name for themselves at the collegiate level before making the move up to the NFL.
Following a breakout campaign in 2013, Rice DT Christian Covington, a Canadian native who is the son of CFL legend Grover Covington, is now the latest imported defensive linemen who has the college football world buzzing. Still, Covington is simply the latest figure to keep the trend alive and well.
When trying to find the next player who has the potential to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and become college football’s next great foreign-born player, there’s one unique prospect in the 2015 recruiting class who certainly sticks out. Hjalte Froholdt, a native of Denmark, is considered to be one of the premier defensive line prospects of the 2015 recruiting class. He has all the skills it takes to become a dominant defender at the collegiate level.
Froholdt generated quite a buzz back in 2012, when he put together a dominant, eye-opening performance as a sophomore at Ohio’s Warren G. Harding High School. Though he left the states last year and returned to his home country, where he suited up for the Sollerod Gold Diggers of the Danish American Football Federation, the powerful and agile 6’4’’, 285-pound Nordic native certainly wasn’t forgotten about. Powerhouse programs such as Alabama, Florida State, Michigan and Ohio State all came calling with scholarship offers. However, Froholdt made the somewhat surprising decision to commit to Bret Bielema and the Arkansas Razorbacks, following their lackluster 3-9 campaign.
Taver Johnson, the coach who played the biggest role in getting Froholdt to pledge his services to Arkansas, left Fayetteville back in February to accept a position at Purdue. Nevertheless, Froholdt has still remained firm in his commitment to Arkansas, telling Scout.com’s Dudley E. Dawson, “I am still solidly committed to Arkansas and I am going to be a Razorback. I had a lot of great schools come after me, but I just know it is the right place for me. I have been having good conversations with the new defensive line coach – Coach Segrest.”
Though his technique may still be a bit raw and unrefined at this stage in his development, Froholdt has the size, strength and attitude to handle the rigors of battling in the treacherous trenches of the SEC. According to Rivals, he can bench press 285-pounds and squat 500-pounds.
When examining his game-film from the 2013 season, it’s clear that Froholdt has both the versatile skill-set and the temperament to excel either inside at tackle or outside at end in a 4-3 front. Ultimately, though, it looks like his best fit would be in the interior, where he can clog up running lanes and use his quickness to penetrate into the backfield and cause chaos for opposing offenses.
After becoming the youngest player ever to be selected to Denmark’s Senior National Team, the highly touted 4-star recruit has said that he intends to return to America this summer and play his senior year at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Since Froholdt will be back on American soil for his final high school season, it’ll be interesting to see if any schools make a serious attempt to poach him away from Arkansas.
If he stays firm on his commitment to the Razorbacks, the Danish native clearly has what it takes to develop into a key long-term foundation player for an Arkansas team that is currently trying to climb out of the SEC cellar. Froholdt’s the type of potential game-changer who could elevate a defense and quickly become an impact player at the collegiate level.