French Connection

Jordan Avissey is sixth French national to play in FBS


Jordan Avissey was 19 when he stepped onto the gridiron for the first time, but that didn’t stop him from becoming the unlikeliest of football stars.

In February, Avissey became the sixth French national to ever sign with a Division-I Football Bowl Subdivision team, committing to UB over schools like Colorado, Idaho or Temple. Avissey joined names like Anthony Mahoungou (Purdue), Jethro Franklin (Fresno State), Pat Saindon (Vanderbilt) and Richard Tardits (Georgia), according to The Growth of a Game, a website that advocates for European football players. But, unlike those before, he found a home in Buffalo.

Avissey, 21, was born in Togo, Africa and moved to France at the age of three, where he settled with his family in La Courneuve, a commune outside of Paris. Growing up, he played basketball, excelling due to his commanding stature and advanced athleticism.

One day at basketball practice, a friend encouraged him to try football. 

He hasn’t looked back since. 

“Honestly, it wasn’t that hard,” he said about the transition to the sport. “I am a really curious person and I love to learn new things.”

At 19, Avissey left France for Thetford Mines in Québec, Canada. At the airport, local high school football coaches asked which position he would like to play. Initially a wide receiver because of his strong hands, size and speed, Avissey said he wanted to play defensive end. 

He has played the position ever since.

Under the direction of an accomplished coaching staff, Avissey blossomed into a premier defensive line talent. When it came time for Avissey to start the college recruiting process, he was ranked No. 1 in France and No. 165 overall for side-defensive end prospects.

“The recruiting process was kind of a childhood dream,” Avissey said. “To have coaches from [around the] country calling you and offering you scholarships, it was really a dream for me.”

Avissey said the entire process was emotionally and physically draining, but he enjoyed the opportunity to interact with coaches and visit different programs in the U.S.

He was looking for a place to call home, and at UB, he found it. 

“It was a really difficult decision to make, but during the official visit I felt [at] home,” he said.

Avissey is already familiar with the cold climate — as he attended high school in Québec. That familiarity, along with and the program’s high number of international players, helped solidify his decision.

“First of all, it’s close to Canada, and I have my big sister in Montreal. After that, there are already some Canadians in the program that I spoke to in French … Tomas [Jack-Kurdyla] and Dev [Lamour]. It’s a treat to be with people who share the same background as me. … I can relate to them and it’s something special about the program that I feel at home [with].”

The support from Avissey’s family and friends has been unwavering. 

“I talked it over with my family, and everybody’s behind me,” Avissey said. “My family might be more excited than I am.”

Entering the 2019 season, the Bulls have nine international players on their roster: Avissey, Fabian Weltz from Germany, Alain Schäerer from Sweden, and Tomas Jack-Kurdyla, Dev Lamour, Gabe Wallace, Dominic Johnson, Cole Burniston and Julien Bourassa from Canada.

The diversity of the team impressed Avissey during the recruiting process, leading him to sign with the Bulls. He also knew of the program’s success in 2018, when the Bulls went 10-4 and came just one point away from winning the MAC Championship Game.

“He’s been a pleasure to have in the program. American Division 1 football has been new to him,” said head coach Lance Leipold. “He’s learned a lot over the summer. He’s gotten bigger and stronger. He still has some developing to do. And how we use him this season has yet to be determined at this time. But, what an outstanding young man. And the story and his passion to try to make this work is really neat. I have a special admiration for all of our international players and their ambition to live the dream and play NCAA football.”

Brandon Collier, the founder of Premier Prospects International, was effusive in his praise for Avissey.

“He’s very athletic, long, and he’s the most loyal kid I have ever met,” Collier said. “He’s in that one percent, above and beyond any other guys I’ve ever worked with. Football-wise, I think that Buffalo has a potential NFL kid right there.”

At 6’5” and 265 lbs, Avissey is an imposing figure. But for all of his physical gifts, he will still need to prove that he has the mental stamina and proper conditioning to excel on the gridiron.

For Avissey, it is important to set an example for the next generation of French prospects. 

“I just want to inspire as many people as I can,” he says. “I’m just going to put in the work and be ready. I am a competitor and all I want to do is win.”

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Justin Weiss is the senior features editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found hiking, playing baseball or doing both at the same time. His words have appeared in Elite Sports New York and the Long Island Herald.