Coming out of Alexandria Episcopal High School in Virginia as a touted prep player, Obi Oluigbo had dreams of becoming the next great Michigan linebacker. “I came on a visit and I just loved everything about it," he said. "I loved the tradition. I loved the tradition a lot. I loved the coaching staff. I just felt like it was a place that I could fit in.”
His sunny outlook changed a bit, though, when Michigan headman Lloyd Carr called the youngster into his office on a Thursday afternoon during the 2003 season to let him know that linebacker wasn't the best position for him.
“I was a little shocked,” Oluigbo said. “When he first called me in I thought I was in trouble or something. Anytime Coach Carr calls us in his office, you think it’s going to be something bad. He told me, 'we are going to move you to fullback.' At the time I was shocked. I didn’t know what to do. I talked to my parents about it. Honestly, I wanted to transfer.”
After taking time to let things sink in Oluigbo found perspective. After evaluating the situation further, he decided to stay in Ann Arbor and accept his coach's challenge.
“I made my decision to come to Michigan on a lot of things, so I felt like I can’t let this move me from what my goals were," Oluigbo explained. "It took me awhile to want to make that move, but after a while, I thought it might be best for my future. Every year it got better -- catching the ball, blocking. It's a different kind of game on offense. So I just got better and I've been rolling with it since."
One aspect of the position that would lead a young player to be hesitant about making such a move is the lack of attention the position gets. Oluigbo, however, didn't feel that it was a thankless job. "We had a great fullback by the name of Kevin Dudley who came in and just destroyed people," he said. "He didn't get the ball that many times, but everybody knew what kind of job he did. I don't know how many thanks he got, but I know when we watched film on Sunday, we knew that Kevin Dudley was a great player."
The switch was uncomfortable at first. Oluigbo didn't start to feel at home at his new position until Michigan traveled to Pasadena California later that year to play in the Rose Bowl against USC.
"I didn't get in the game, but I had an opportunity that maybe I was going to get in the game," Oluigbo recalled. "I felt like I could help the team and that I was picking up the offense really well. I was moving people and blocking well, so I thought I might be good at this.”
Oluigbo fell short of winning the starting job in 2005, but his hard work and perseverance were rewarded this year when he was placed at the top of the depth chart. The fifth-year senior attributes his success not only to his work ethic, but to his confidence as well.
“It's just believing in myself, everyday fighting” said Oluigbo. “Just knowing that one day my number will be called, and I'd have to be ready. When your number is called, you have to go in there and perform. Everyday, just not letting down…just come in to work and get better…catching the ball, blocking, knowing the offense…all that stuff."
Though Oluigbo has never told Coach Carr personally, he's definitely glad he made the move.
“I would rather have been at fullback than not playing at linebacker
and not enjoying myself, " he said.
Obi Oluigbo Quotable:
On whether he would rather be on defense:
"I'm fully committed. It's a joy watching those guys play on defense. Those guys get after it every play. I just love watching defense. I'm still a defensive-minded guy. I go out there and look around, watch, but I'm an offensive guy."
On potential NFL future:
“Everybody, at whatever position they play, when you come to Michigan, your high hopes are to one day play in the NFL. Right now, I feel like I just want to be the best fullback for this team.”
On sharing a first name with teammate Obi Ezeh:
“Obi is short for Obianna (pronounced oh-BEE-nah) in Nigeria. It’s a very common name.”
“I haven’t talked to him in awhile, he’s not practicing but I see him and I talk to him. He’s so young I really don’t have anything to talk to him about other than football.”
“I know a lot of other Obi’s, so it’s not a big surprise to know somebody else with the same name as you.”
On his decision as a kid to switch from playing basketball to football
"I was a basketball player growing up. (My parents) would always support me…come to my AAU games, my youth games. I didn’t really pick up football until about ninth or tenth grade. I played in ninth grade but I never took it serious until my junior year when I saw I wasn’t getting any taller (laughing)."