The emotional exclamation of happiness from Ojabo upon being chosen bore slightly additional oomph as a result of trials and tribulations he is needed to face alongside the best way, most notably tearing his Achilles simply weeks previous to the draft.
Though some urged the damage may need affected his draft inventory — he was predicted by some consultants to be a first-round decide — in falling to the second spherical, the Ravens may need pulled off a masterful coup, given the wonders of recent science and restoration schedules.
And for a participant seeking to discover his means within the league, it could not have been a greater match for Ojabo. His highschool teammate, Odafe Oweh, was chosen within the first spherical of final 12 months’s draft by the Ravens, and the group’s new defensive coordinator, Mike Macdonald, was Ojabo’s defensive coordinator at Michigan.
“Every part that occurs on this life to me, it isn’t me,” the 22-year-old mentioned. “I am simply dwelling out my script.
“So from the place I used to be ‘supposed’ to go, that is not my future. I am presupposed to go right here evidently. What are the possibilities that coach Mike (Macdonald), all of them are available in one 12 months, we go loopy in Michigan, win the Huge Ten after which, the following 12 months, I’m going to league and I observe him.
“It is not by chance. So I haven’t got any worries on this life, man. I simply reside it day-to-day.”
A lot already achieved by a younger man who solely began enjoying the game 5 years in the past.
Born in soccer-crazy Nigeria, then seven-year-old Ojabo and his household moved to Scotland due to his dad’s job as an engineer.
And it was In Britain that Ojabo blossomed and found his love for sports activities. Alongside together with his brother, he turned proficient at each soccer and basketball.
Though his brother was the “essential sports activities man within the household” at a younger age, Obajo is the one to take athletics critically sufficient to make an expert profession from of it.
“Now, (my brother) is extra on a sensible aspect and I type of took over,” he defined.
When he turned 15, Ojabo determined that to spice up his probabilities of turning into an elite soccer or basketball participant, he’d transfer to the US to enroll in excessive faculties and schools with applications which might higher additional his growth.
However regardless of his greatest laid plans, his future quickly all modified.
Whereas he was operating observe at his highschool, Blair Academy in New Jersey, Ojabo had a first-row seat at seeing his now-teammate with the Ravens, Oweh, “blow up” whereas enjoying American soccer.
Oweh, who was a 12 months above Ojabo, went on to decide to Penn State to play school soccer earlier than ultimately being drafted by the Ravens within the first spherical of the 2021 NFL draft with the 31st general decide.
And so, in 2017, on the age of 17 — a lot later than most would decide it up — Ojabo tried his hand at American soccer.
The remaining, they are saying, is historical past.
Adjusting and flourishing
Studying a brand new sport, specifically one with so many variations to those he’d grown up with, was troublesome.
“I imply, the toughest factor first is the contact,” he mentioned. “Nearly any sport to soccer is completely different, therefore the helmet. It is head-to-head. In order that was undoubtedly the most important transition for me.”
Regardless of having to be taught a “complete new sport” with new guidelines and a “new type of play,” Ojabo took to it like duck to water.
After his first 12 months of highschool soccer, Ojabo obtained 35 scholarship presents from schools — together with a number of the most prestigious applications within the nation. It was then a case of visiting the faculties and choosing which one would greatest serve his wants, each academically and athletically.
With recommendation from his household, Ojabo selected the College of Michigan. “Everyone knows Michigan is the highest college within the nation,” he mentioned. “After which, after all, the soccer aspect, enjoying for coach (Jim) Harbaugh and the most important stadium within the nation, you possibly can’t actually go these up.”
Though he redshirted his first 12 months — the act of delaying participation to lengthen eligibility to compete at school degree — and was a reserve in 2020, when he acquired the chance to be a starter, he snatched it with each palms.
In a breakout 2021 season, enjoying on the opposite aspect of the line of defense to the No. 2 general decide on the 2022 draft, Aidan Hutchinson, Ojabo showcased his explosive athleticism and abilities, totaling 11 sacks and 5 pressured fumbles as he put himself on the map as one of many prime defensive prospects within the nation.
On the finish of the season, he determined to declare for the draft to make the ultimate leap to the NFL.
Ojabo remembered the draft course of — of being scouted by groups and having draft consultants discussing his strengths and weaknesses — as being “undoubtedly thrilling” and “additionally humbling.”
“You already know you are a part of that that small percentile of those who get picked up and acknowledged to go to the following degree. So it is a blessing all alongside,” he mentioned.
However simply as issues have been coming into place, catastrophe struck.
For Ojabo, Saturday, March 19 was going in addition to he might have imagined.
The linebacker, alongside together with his Michigan Wolverines teammates, have been showcasing their athletic and ball abilities for the assembled NFL scouts and coaches on the college’s professional day.
However, halfway via his exercise, as he was driving with the ball having simply caught it, Ojabo crumpled to the ground, clutching at his left ankle.
It was later confirmed that he had torn his Achilles. Ojabo remembered being “shocked” by the primary damage of his profession.
Just some days later, Ojabo had surgical procedure to restore the harm, however his future was now murky.
Initially, he’d been predicted to get chosen within the first spherical. However after this damage, it was tougher to foretell.
It was an agonizing first day of the draft as Ojabo was pressured to attend. His cellphone did not ring. He remembered sitting and ready, being “full of hysteria.”
However, on Friday, April 29, his cellphone lastly buzzed. On the opposite finish was the Ravens common supervisor, Eric DeCosta, informing Ojabo that with the 45th decide of the draft, Baltimore could be choosing him.
“There isn’t any feeling on this world that actually compares: that is your future that is simply been determined in entrance of the entire world. Simply feeling that cellphone vibrate, you see on a regular basis on YouTube all these highlights, however to essentially expertise it myself was completely different. It was a blessing.”
Reunited together with his highschool teammate, enjoying for his outdated school defensive coordinator and the older brother — John Harbaugh — of his school coach, Baltimore is sort of a second residence for Ojabo.
Regardless of his Achilles damage, Ojabo is hoping to have an effect in his rookie 12 months as he goals to return in some unspecified time in the future via the upcoming season. He cites Los Angeles Rams operating again Cam Akers final season getting back from an identical damage six months after struggling it.
However, reflecting on his profession to date, regardless of being a second-round rookie within the NFL, Ojabo mentioned he was simply getting began.
“I see myself as considered one of one, simply in the best way I play. On the finish of the day, I’ve solely been enjoying for 5 years. So I am studying alongside the best way and making an attempt to determine it out.”