Pro Football Reference lists 32 players in NFL history who were born in England. Only one ever played for the Vikings.
Visanthe Shiancoe was born in Birmingham in 1980, but didn’t stay in England for long. He moved with his family when he was two months old, growing up to be a top-notch tight end for Minnesota from 2007-11.
“I’m very proud of that,” Shiancoe said of being the only England native to suit up for the Vikings. “It’s a different twist. It’s a fun twist.”
Shiancoe hasn’t been back to England since he left but wants someday to see where he was born. In fact, he flirted with flying over to see the Vikings play New Orleans on Sunday in London, which is about two hours southeast of Birmingham.
“I’m going to go back,” said Shiancoe, who played in the NFL from 2003-13, and had a Vikings-high 11 touchdown receptions in 2009. “I always said I would go back when I retired.”
Shiancoe hasn’t returned yet because he has been busy since his retirement running Gavvai Nutrition, a business he owns in the Washington, D.C., area that produces nutritional supplements. In the meantime, he continues to have fun with being born in England.
“You can mess with people and fake a little accent,” said Shiancoe, 42. “It’s just random. When it’s a perfect situation, I’ll slip it in.”
Shiancoe is half-Liberian and half-Ghanaian. Before he was born, his father Jonathan was a seafood export executive in Monrovia, Liberia, but the family fled when civil war broke out in the African nation.
“My mother (Ethel) had to throw my brother (Jon), who was then 2 years old, over a fence into the U.S. Embassy to protect him from the rebels and soldiers who would have basically killed him,” Shiancoe said.
His mother and brother Jon, now 45, fled to London, where they lived for more than a year. After Shiancoe was born, he moved with his mother and brother to New York.
Not long after that, the family settled in the Washington area, where Shiancoe mostly grew up. His father lives in Ghana.
Shiancoe caught 240 passes for 2,424 yards and 24 touchdowns in his five seasons with the Vikings. He wished he could have played a game with the Vikings in London. They went there for games in 2013 and 2017 prior to this season.
“It would have been cool to do that,” he said. “But I might have gotten fined or suspended if I had gone up to Birmingham and then missed curfew.”
Shiancoe remains involved with the Vikings. Being 50 percent Ghanaian, he wants to meet first-year general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who is of Ghanaian heritage.
Shiancoe did meet Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks, nose tackle Harrison Phillips and tight end Irv Smith Jr. when they journeyed with students from the Minnesota youth organization Project Success to Washington in June. The group toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture with Shiancoe and a pair of former Vikings Pro Bowl players, tight end Steve Jordan and fullback Tony Richardson.