Lusaka born John Daka has made history by becoming the first Zambian to play in the National Football League in the USA when he signed with the Baltimore Ravens.
Daka finished fourth all-time at James Maddison University in sacks with 27.5, and also finished with 47.5 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles.
The Upper Marlboro, Maryland, native earned STATS FCS First Team All-American and AP Second Team All-American.
Writing on Twitter, Daka said, “Zambian people are a big family , it’s an honor to represent such great people.”
He also confirmed that he was born in Lusaka before migrating to the USA.
“Yes i was born in Lusaka for everyone asking,” he tweeted.
Daka put together an outstanding season as a senior in 2019.
He racked up 28 tackles for loss and led the FCS with 16.5 sacks.
Daka says he had an idea he would be joining the Ravens before the draft was even over.
“I knew they were very high on me so after like the 6th or 7th round, I had indication that I would rather just go to the Ravens…than go to a team that I am not really a fit for,” said Daka, who’s a native of Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
“So I just feel like I’m a perfect fit for the Ravens. I did have a good amount of calls during and after the draft but I knew I was going to the Ravens probably once round seven started.”
Just two years ago, Daka departed Bridgeforth Stadium uncertain whether he would play there again following the final home game of his sophomore season in 2017.
Off-the-field circumstances, the specifics of which Daka declined to disclose other than to say they involved “just stuff I couldn’t really control,” had left him so disillusioned he considered giving up the sport.
“There were times when I didn’t even want to play college football anymore,” the record-setting defensive end said Tuesday in a telephone interview with the Washington Post revealing that he also thought strongly about transferring.
“I lost confidence in myself. I didn’t think I was good enough, so I think that’s the biggest barrier I’ve been through in my life personally. Even my family didn’t really know too much about what was going on because I didn’t want them to have that burden. The only people who on the daily knew what was going on were my teammates. They’re the reason why I’m here right now.”
Thanks in large part to their encouragement, Daka decided to remain with the Dukes.
Two years later, on a team that is two wins from the national championship, the senior defensive end holds JMU’s season record for sacks.
For Daka, that routine began in high school at Wise in Upper Marlboro, Md., where he was a first-team All-Met selection in 2015 after helping the undefeated Pumas win the 4A state championship. He also set the single-season record for sacks at Wise as a senior despite skipping football as a freshman to focus on basketball.
Daka, who is 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, said he decided to concentrate on football because of his height disadvantage in basketball.
His relatively diminutive stature in part limited the football scholarship offers he received — until, that is, he began accumulating highlight-reel sacks, catching the attention of schools that initially had shown only passing interest.
By then, Daka had committed to James Madison and wasn’t about to spurn the program that had made his recruitment a priority rather than an afterthought.