Some people wait their entire life to get the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of scouts to someday get drafted and play at the highest level the sport has to offer. Charlotte’s Larry Ogunjobi received that chance on March 5 in Indianapolis, becoming the first 49er to partake in the NFL Combine, before doing drills in front of a dozen NFL scouts on March 15 at Charlotte’s Pro Day. But with all his accolades he has received on the field, Ogunjobi breeds character and process.
Charlotte’s all-time leader in tackles (217), tackles for loss (49.0), sacks (13) and quarterback hurries (33), will now look to become the first ever Charlotte player chosen in the NFL Draft in late April.
With all the praise and attention the Greensboro, North Carolina native has received lately, one tweet caught the eye of Ogunjobi, Niner Nation and others that support him.
“True story: I want to see @Mr_Ogunjobi land on a team or the panthers. Only kid I know hit me on a consistent basis on how to become a pro,” Panthers defensive lineman said in a tweet.
Ogunjobi didn’t take that shoutout from one of the top defensive players for the Carolina Panthers for granted.
“There was a point in my career that I reached out to him and said, ‘I want to get to a position where you’re at. I want to be great. I want to be the best. I know it’s not about proving it to everybody else. It’s about proving it to myself. What do I need to do to take those next steps?’ So he made me a list, and I saved it in my phone. He didn’t have to, but he did. And for him to say that, it meant a lot because he’s a guy that I see Uptown every now and then and he was never like, ‘Yo, Who are you?’ He always said, ‘What’s up, Larry? How are you doing?’ It was always cool, but I felt like I had to earn respect. He knew I was there, he knew i was working. But it was like, ‘You’ve still got work to do.’ It’s almost like a big brother type of thing.”
With all the hype around Ogunjobi and what a “feel good” story he is in this year’s draft, there are still plenty of doubters that correlate his success with playing at a small school with lesser competition than defensive players from bigger conferences such as the SEC or ACC.
“Just because I went to Charlotte doesn’t mean anything,” Ogunjobi said. “If you take any of the defensive tackles out of this draft, no matter what school they go to and tell them to come to Charlotte and ask them to do the things I did, they couldn’t.”
Ogunjobi scratched a few of the people off the list that questioned his performance with his showing at the NFL Combine, running a 4.97-second 40-yard dash, hitting 26 repetitions (of 225 pounds) on bench press, recording a 32-inch vertical and registering a 7.55-second 3 cone drill and a 4.75-second time on the 20-yard shuttle.
“He’s a guy that not many people know about,” NFL Analyst Mike Mayock said. “I think he’s a talented guy and he’s probably a second-round pick and he’s got some real quick one-gap possibilities.”
Mayock and other analysts have the 6-foot-4, 304-pound defensive tackle going as high as the second round in the draft.
Knowing what he can do on the field, many analysts have talked about how his character has separated him from other candidates in the draft, something that Ogunjobi prides himself on.
“I’ve always been a big advocate of what you do off the field is what will show up on the field,” Ogunjobi said. “Adversity breeds good character. I’ve played the role where you were the person that wasn’t important and the person who was on the sidelines that nobody knew about. I’ve been that guy. And I understand what hard work and dedication can do for somebody. How effort counts twice. Some scout walked up to us and said, ‘I know you guys are used to being the fastest and most talented athletes when you were growing up.’ Not me. I was 350 pounds and couldn’t get into a football stance. Everything I have, I’ve worked for. God has blessed me. My character also comes from my parents because they would tell me to respect people and treat them the right way.
During an interview with multiple media representatives, Ogunjobi said, “You are important and I have to treat you as such. Just because I don’t know you, there are people in this world that care about you dearly that would do anything for you and who am I to try and short change you. I have to treat you with that same respect because that’s how I want you to treat me. I think the biggest thing in life is how you treat people and how you make people feel. You have to make people feel important because they are. That’s why I take pride in my character and reach out to people and try to make other people feel better.”
Exceptional talent. Exceptional character. Exceptional story. Get to know the name Ogunjobi, you’ll hear it on draft day.