Meet The 15+ NFL Players & Coaches With Lebanese Roots

These 15 NFL Players & Coaches Share Lebanese Roots
E. Bakke/NFL | Chicago Tribune

Lebanese-Americans are some of the most successful communities in the United States. They’ve gotten their fingers in many pies over the generations, including sports, which, of course, include American football.

Today, the community boasts several Hall of Famers in the contact sport, in addition to a number of professional players and coaches, some of whom had a notable impact on American football.

#1 Jimmy Jemail

Jimmy Jemail was regarded as the first Lebanese to ever play in America's National Football League (NFL).
Source: The Bowery Boys

Jimmy Jemail was regarded as the first Lebanese to ever play in America’s National Football League (NFL). He played as a quarterback with the New York Brickley Giants in 1921. Jemail hailed from Byblos, Lebanon.

#2 John Elway

John Elway is of Lebanese origin.
Source: Pro Football Hall of Fame

The current president of the Denver Broncos’ football operations is a former quarterback who, throughout his 16-years of playing with the same team, became, statistically, the second most prolific passer in the history of the NFL.

A Lebanese-American, Elway is considered by some to be the greatest modern American football player, and he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004.

#3 Bill George

Bill George was a Lebanese-American football player.
Source: Football Card Gallery

Credited as the first true middle linebacker in American football history, Bill George was a legendary player and Pro Football Hall of Famer (1974) who played with the Chicago Bears and the Los Angeles Rams.

George was a major contributor to the Bears’ outstanding defensive team reputation in the 50s and 60s, and he was leading their defense team when they scored the NFL Championship in 1963.

#4 Doug Flutie

Doug Flutie is an award-winning former quarterback who played with a variety of teams in the NFL, as well as in the United States Football League (USFL) and the Canadian Football League (CFL), over the course of two decades.

Flutie, whose paternal great-grandparents were Lebanese immigrants, was inducted into several Halls of Fames throughout his career, including Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, to which he became the first non-Canadian inductee.

#5 Abe Gibron

NFL player and coach Abe Gibron.
Source: Alchetron/Spokeo

For 11 seasons, in the 40s and 50s, award-winner Abraham “Abe” Gibron played as a guard with several teams, mostly with the Cleveland Browns, ending his playing career with the Chicago Bears in 1959.

Gibron, the son of Lebanese immigrants, then switched to coaching in 1960 and went on to fill various coaching roles with a number of teams, including the Bears and the Miami Dolphins.

#6 Brian Habib

Brian Habib.
Source: Denver Broncos

Brian Habib played as an offensive lineman, for 11 seasons, with the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, and Seattle Seahawks, and he won Super Bowl XXXII with the Broncos. He is currently a high school offensive line coach and a real estate agent.

#7 Robert Saleh

The current head coach of the New York Jets has had a remarkable coaching career that started small with a 2002 Defensive Assistant role for Michigan State, which he secured with the help of his former college coach.

Saleh, who was born in 1979 in Dearborn, Michigan, to Lebanese parents, worked as a coach with the Houston Texans, the Seattle Seahawks, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the San Francisco 49ers, before becoming the head coach of the Jets in January 2021.

#8 Matt Kalil

Matt Kalil.
Source: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Kalil is an offensive tackle and a free agent whose professional career started with the Minnesota Vikings in 2012. He was regarded as the best offensive tackle prospect for the 2012 NFL Draft.

Kalil spent 4 years with the Vikings before signing with the Carolina Panthers (2017-2018) and then the Houston Texans (2019-present). He is of Lebanese and Mexican heritage.

#19 Ryan Kalil

Ryan Kalil, Matt Kalil’s older brother, is a former NFL center who played from 2003 until 2019 before venturing into the media business working as a TV and film producer.

During his professional football run, Ryan Kalil played 12 seasons with the Carolina Panthers and 1 season with the New York Jets. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, and 2015.

#10 Drew Haddad

Drew Haddad.
Source: @uncledrew_UB16

Over the course of his 5-year wide-receiver NFL career, Drew Haddad played with the Indianapolis Colts, the Buffalo Bills, and the San Diego Chargers, concluding his NFL run with the latter in 2005.

He also played college football for the University of Buffalo and, in 2007, he was inducted into the university’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

#11 Jeff George

Jeff George.
Source: Grizly

Jeff George was the first pick in the 1990 NFL Draft. He was signed to the Indianapolis Colts for $15 million in the richest rookie contract in the history of the NFL at the time.

He played with the Colts for 3 years before bouncing between several teams between 1994 and 2006, including the Atlanta Falcons, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Chicago Bears.

#12 Rich Kotite

Rich Kotite.
Source: Athlon Sports

Rich Kotite is a former NFL tight end player and coach who was drafted in the 1965 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings.

He played for the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers between 1967 and 1972, switching to coaching in the late 70s, after which he worked various coaching positions with the Jets, the New Orleans Saints, the Cleveland Browns, and the Philadelphia Eagles.

#13 Hicham El-Mashtoub

Hicham El-Mashtoub
Source: Kronozio

Hicham El-Mashtoub was drafted by the Houston Oilers as a center in the 1995 NFL Draft. He also played with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League in 1999.

#14 Marwan Maalouf

Marwan Maalouf.
Source: Minnesota Vikings/Fox Sports

Marwan Maalouf’s NFL coaching career started in 2005 with the Cleveland Browns as the special teams quality control coach.

He spent a year with the Browns before moving on to coach other teams, the most recent of which were the Minnesota Vikings in the 2019 season.

#15 Joe Robbie

Attorney and businessman Joe Robbie is of Lebanese origin.
Source: Sports Illustrated

In the 60s, Joe Robbie, an attorney who had established a career in politics at the time, ventured into the professional football industry. Although he was neither a professional player nor a coach, he deserves an honorable mention.

In 1965, he founded the Miami Dolphins after partnering with Lebanese-American comedian Danny Thomas. Robbie’s father was a Lebanese immigrant and restaurant manager, and his mother was a baker of Irish descent.

#16 Patrick Mekari

Patrick Mekari.
Source: @PMekari

Patrick Mekari was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens after he didn’t get selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. Mekari, who plays center, is the son of Lebanese immigrants who settled in California.

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