VandyMania Interview: Kelechi Ohanaja

Provided he doesn't make it to the NFL first, Vanderbilt starting free safety Kelechi Ohanaja hopes one day to become a lawyer. But as you'll learn in this revealing, lengthy VandyMania interview, the Arlington, Texas native is already getting a jump on the art of representation.<P> <i>Vanderbilt opens the season Saturday at home vs. South Carolina (11:30 a.m., Jefferson-Pilot TV, WGFX-FM 104.5).


VandyMania: Kelechi, at SEC Media Days, Jovan Haye was dressed in a stunning white suit, with an orange shirt and orange tie. He told everyone there that you were his "fashion consultant."

Free safety Kelechi Ohanaja: (Laughs.) Yeah, he told about that. First thing is, two weeks before that we went out looking, and I just asked him what direction he wanted to go. We went to the stores, and I knew his measurements. I guess I almost was his fashion consultant. I went in there and spoke for him, told them the price range, everything, how we wanted the suit, the colors that work best for him and everything. So yeah, I guess that would be accurate.

VM: So how did you get into the position of being Jovan's consultant? Do you have some background in that?

Kelechi: No, not really. He and I are roommates too, by the way. We had talked about it before. We said, this year, he needs to be a little bit more flashy. He could be All-SEC, you know, it could come. So you better dress for the occasion! So we just picked the suit that kind of presented that.

VM: He calls you "Q," or "Q Cutty." Now, what is it you call him?

Kelechi: "Gutta." (Laughs.)

VM: Where do these names come from? Are those rap names or something?

Kelechi: No, it's not a rap name, it's just nicknames. All the DB's and some of the players on the team have nicknames. Like, you know, "CatMan" (Cheron Thompson). You've got "Champ" (Bill Alford). You got "BugMan" (Marcus Buggs). Then you've got "Mr. Perfect" (Andrew Pace). Then you've got "The Prince" who is Dominique Morris. All of us have just got nicknames. Otis Washington is "Oooh"... "Oooh Easy." It's just a bunch of nicknames.

VM: But where do these things come from? Who makes them up?

Kelechi: I don't know. (Laughs.) I really don't. No, it's not me. I guess it's just from being around each other a whole bunch. I guess it's just something you come in here with. Most of the time the defensive backfield gets baptized by having a nickname. They get a nickname when they come in here, and it just sticks with them.

VM: You've got a couple of new guys in the defensive backfield this year, Josh Allen and Jared Fagan. Have they got nicknames yet?

Kelechi: Josh Allen is "Reverend Deacon." Jared Fagan is "T2." And Reshard Langford is "Scud." I think one day we were doing 7-on-7 with no pads, and he just came across like a missile and hit somebody. So we were like, all right, that's "Scud."

VM: Speaking of those three guys, how are they looking in practice?

Kelechi: Oh, they're looking real good, real good. They're picking up things a lot quicker than I expected them to. It's really hard for freshmen. For a lot of them it's their first time away from home. They're adapting really well to it.

VM: Is Reshard playing free safety behind you.

Kelechi: Yeah, he's a free safety.

VM: The defensive backs have been a little nicked up by injuries this preseason, but at the same time it seems like you might have more depth in the secondary than you've had in a while.

Kelechi: We do have a lot of depth. I mean, last year we had a pretty good amount of depth, but this year we're bringing depth with experience, which is something that you really can't teach in practice. It's something that you inherit, and we have it. And it's something that should probably bring dividends when we get into this season.

VM: In a lot of defenses the free safety is kind of the quarterback of the defense. Is that how it is here?

Kelechi: It's kind of like that, but most of the time the quarterback of the defense would probably be Andrew Pace. He is Mr. Perfect, after all. He makes most of the calls. He knows the defense in and out. He and Herdley Harrison, those are really the two main people who orchestrate a lot of what's going on in the defense, get everybody lined up correctly and what-not.

VM: If you had to say what the team's goal is, what would you say?

Kelechi: I'd say our first goal is to beat South Carolina. After that, most importantly, win games, go to a bowl game, because I don't believe we've done that since 1982. Obviously we're going to go into each game taking them one game at a time. We're not going to jump ahead and say, we're going to do this, do that. We'll start with South Carolina and just progress from week to week.

VM: You're studying Human and Organizational Development. Are you on track to graduate this year?

Kelechi: Yes. But I'm going to try to get into graduate school, so I should be back for a fifth year. We'll just have to see about that.

VM: Do you have any aspirations to play in the NFL?

Kelechi: I do, but if I don't make it, that's not the end of the world. I'd like to go to law school and be a lawyer. If I were to make the NFL, that would just be gravy.

VM: So you're already representing some clients, the way you did with Jovan at Media Days?

Kelechi: (Laughs.) Yeah, this is just like pre-training, like an early internship or something.

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