The Browns have solidified their defensive line depth tonight by selecting UNC-Charlotte DT Larry Ogunjobi with their first pick in the third round.
Ogunjobi has one of the most interesting and unique stories of NFL prospects in a long time. He has only played football since his sophomore year in high school. Here is how he told his story on his conference call with the Browns media after being drafted.
“It is kind of a crazy story actually, but I will shorten it since we are live," he said. "I didn’t start playing football until my sophomore year of high school. I was 350 pounds and never played football before, and my parents said that I was getting too fat. They took away my game system (laughter). They got me a coach and he trained me for about a month or so, and he got me down to about 330. He took me to the high school one day, and I asked him what we were doing there and he said, ‘You’re going to play football.’ I said, ‘No I’m not.’ He said, ‘Yes you are,’ and I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ He got the permission slip from the lady at the front desk, and she took it to my mom and my mom signed it and I was on the football field that next Saturday.
"I couldn’t get through the first workout and the coaches came up to me the next day and they said, ‘Larry, we just want to make sure that you’re still here,’ he continued. "I thought, yes I’m still here coach, but in my head I was only there because I had to be. Throughout that process I went through that sophomore season of high school and I got Most Improved JV player, which seems like a small award, but you know, in retrospect, that was the first time in my life where I felt like I earned an award that I actually worked for. That is what kind of set the framework for everything that has happened up to this point. That’s what kind of set the framework for everything that’s happened to this point. Throughout that year, I talked to my coach. I saw him, and I saw the upperclassmen getting recruited and I asked him what I needed to do to. He said I had I had to get faster, I had to get stronger and I had to perfect my technique. Every day after practice I would go to the YMCA. I was still big so I started off running just half a mile and bike five miles. Then it got to a point where I could run a whole mile and bike ten miles. Then to the point where I could run two whole miles without stopping and bike 15 miles, and my body composition started changing.
"I went from that sophomore year being 350, to being 237 my junior year," he said. "I lost over 100 pounds. My body composition changed. I bulked up to 262 for my junior year and to 267 my senior year and got offered by Charlotte going into the summer of my senior year. They were the first school to offer me. Since I just started playing football, it was a brand new thing. I’m first generation so my family didn’t know anything about football. It was a new experience. Going to Charlotte was kind of a luck of the draw. I prayed about it. They were my first offer. I only took one visit. I had other offers, but Charlotte was a unique situation. To be the first in so many categories is nothing but a blessing, and I thank God every day for allowing me to be in that position. When it comes to choosing Charlotte and how I ended up there it was God willing.”
Pro Football Focus ranked Ogunjobi as the 13th-best interior defensive lineman. Ogunjobi (6-3, 305) was a first team All-Conference USA performer in 2016. He finished his career with 65 tackles, including 13.5 tackles for a loss. He had three sacks and 13 in his four-year career. In 2016, Ogunjobi had 10 quarterback hits beside the tackles for loss.
"Displays awareness to recognize and defeat down blocks forcing backs to redirect from the intended point of attack," Pro Football Focus said. "Able to penetrate double teams, can bench press two linemen with one arm apiece...Stout facing combo blocks, one of the best in the class holding the point against multiple blockers...Can fire off the ball, possesses surprising explosion for a big man...Refined pass-rusher, keeps his frame clean with active hands...Displays ridiculous power using the bull rush, capable of de-cleating offensive lineman...Consistently collapses the pocket by generating vertical movement in the pass game...High-effort rusher, constantly works to shed/bull rush even when initially blocked...Good awareness, can sniff out block and release techniques to eliminate screens ...Dominant performance against the run during Senior Bowl practice."
The biggest knock on Ogunjobi is summed up this way: "Struggles occasionally on the front side against inside zone, can be widened at the point of attack... Insufficient athleticism to quickly change direction to make plays in the backfield...Lacks the lateral agility to consistently win with speed as a pass-rusher."
Hue Jackson said that adding Myles Garrett and Ogunjobi can allow the Browns to play more of a 4-3 base defense. Jackson and his coaching staff was able to see Ogunjobi up close and personal at the Senior Bowl where they were coaching prior to the NFL Combine.
“It could," Jackson said. "Gregg (Williams) does a lot of different things with his scheme. Obviously, I think our base may be that, but we will do a lot of multiple things out of that all of the sudden depending on the skillset of our players. We will have the flexibility to do a little bit of it all.”
Ogunjobi (6-3, 305) said the time at the Senior Bowl really helped him as the Browns coaching staff was able to work with him. He was the first player drafted from UNC-Charlotte.
“The Senior Bowl was really valuable," he said in a conference call after being drafted. "You are able to go against some of the best competition in the country. The coaches, I just really talked to them. I didn’t know they liked me that much but when you get the phone call, you answer it and there you are. I am just excited for the opportunity. I can’t thank God enough.”
Ogunjobi thinks he brings a lot to the NFL.
“I am a really hard worker," he said. "My first step, my last lateral quickness, the ability to get off the ball and get on the offensive linemen really quickly, that is where I think my game really separates itself from other people. I feel like playing that three technique – I think that is where they want me at – to really make those guards work and all the guys on the edge. They just got (DL) Myles (Garrett) and you have (DL) Danny (Shelton) in the middle. Just really being a factor and making plays.”