The University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Larry Ogunjobi recently acknowledged that he has been in communication with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Ogunjobi, the son of two Nigerian immigrants, has taken the path less traveled on the way to becoming an intriguing prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Larry Ogunjobi: Nose Tackle of the Future for the Pittsburgh Steelers?
Ogunjobi had absolutely no interest in playing football until his parents pleaded with him as a sophomore in high school to lose weight. At the time, Ogunjobi acknowledged during our recent interview that he was tipping the scales at 350 pounds and played his first season on junior varsity as a standing nose tackle because he was literally unable to get into a football stance.
“I just didn’t have enough upper-body strength to support myself at the time” Ogunjobi reminisced in a recent interview. He went on to emphasize just how important his sophomore year was, “at the end of the season we had a banquet, and I thought my best friend was going to receive the award for most improved JV player, but they ended up calling my name, and that was the first time in my life I felt like I got a reward for something that I really worked for.”
Still, his path to becoming an NFL prospect was far from normal. He signed on to play football at Charlotte the first year they offered a NCAA Division I football program after coming out of high school as a two-star recruit. When asked about attending Charlotte, Ogunjobi stated, “Being a first generation American, I didn’t understand how the system worked, I didn’t attend any camps, I had one official visit; to Charlotte and it felt like a good fit. I prayed on it, and decided that’s where I would play.”
Ogunjobi is listed as a redshirt senior going into the 2017 draft, but ironically never missed a game in his time with the Charlotte 49ers. When asked about his redshirt status Ogunjobi chuckled.
“When I got to Charlotte, they were still building the football stadium, on my official visit, there was nothing there,” he noted. “All I saw was dirt, even the fieldhouse wasn’t finished, but football was so new to me that I didn’t have any complaints. Ignorance is bliss, I was just happy to be a part of it.”
Even though it was far from a normal Division I football program when he signed on, Ogunjobi looked back on his time in Charlotte fondly.
“In 2012 we had a program but didn’t have a team, so everybody in that inaugural class redshirted,” Ogunjobi emphasized, “because all we did was practice. We practiced so much it was crazy, but it was a good thing though, none of us had ever played college football and we needed that time to get our bodies acclimated to what we were going to go into.”
The hard work paid off as Ogunjobi went on to start all 46 games in school history. Even more impressive, he is leaving Charlotte as the program’s all-time tackling leader. Graduating with 219 tackles even though he’s been a career nose tackle.
Ogunjobi is one of the few defensive line prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft that has experience playing as a true nose tackle commonly referred to as a one-technique. When I asked him about how he felt his talents translated to the NFL level his high football I.Q. quickly became evident.
“I feel like I’m a different type of nose guard than most people, like I played nose guard all throughout college and I was productive,” Ogunjobi said. “I just feel like the NFL is getting past the stage of space-eaters. The game is becoming too fast for that. If you have 11 guys on the field you want them all to be making progress towards the quarterback, so I stop the run, but while I’m on the way to the quarterback. That’s how a lot of team’s philosophies are nowadays and I feel like I fit that scheme and bring that versatility, whether it means playing a one-technique or a shade. I’m not the typical nose guard that’s going to sit there and latch on to blocks. I want to be disruptive. I want to make plays.”
It should come as no surprise that the Pittsburgh Steelers have some interest in seeing Ogunjobi wearing the black and gold. He has a plethora of experience playing as an interior defensive lineman, a high upside, an extremely high football I.Q. and comes across as a leader with a strong work ethic. With backup nose tackle Daniel McCullers’ rookie contract due to expire at the end of the 2017 season, the Steelers could continue to add young talent and depth behind Javon Hargrave, Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward if they decide to draft Ogunjobi.