When teams take a swing at seventh-round picks, they often are looking for players who excel at a specific element of their game that makes a difference. For one, academics was the difference in his college choice.
A first-generation American from a family of Nigerian immigrants, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo.Odenigbo was a highly sought-after pass-rush specialist coming out of high school. He was courted by some of the heavy hitters in the college game – Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Notre Dame, but he chose Northwestern for reasons that rarely come into play in the modern era of college football – academics.
“I’m the first one in my family not born in Nigeria, so I didn’t watch much football,” Odenigbo said. “I wasn’t really thinking about [the NFL] until I remember I wrote this econ final my sophomore year of college. I was like, “Oh God! I don’t know if school can work for me.’ My sophomore year, I kind of had to realize I could be really good at football if I really focused. I took the initiative from my sophomore year, I kind of had to realize I could be really good at football if I really focused.”
Although he was never a full-time starter, much like current Vikings defensive end and soon-to-be full-time starter Danielle Hunter, Odenigbo was a rotational player in college with his specialty being a blazing fast speed rusher. He finished his college career with 23½ sacks and five forced fumbles in part-time duty.
Although the numbers were impressive, the body of work wasn’t what gets somebody drafted on Day 1 or 2. Impatient waiting as the draft hit the sixth round, he had seen enough and was getting frustrated, so he and some of his friends hopped in a car and began driving to Chicago to take his mind off of the situation.
It was only when he was on his way to Chitown that his phone rang and Vikings GM Rick Spielman was on the other end of the line.
“I’m in the middle of the sixth round and I’m like, ‘Mom, I’m leaving,’” Odenigbo said. “She was like, ‘What? What do you mean?’ ‘I’m getting out of here.’ I was with a couple of friends who were with me at a family friend’s house, so we just got out. We actually drove to Chicago and, on my way to Chicago, I got a phone call from the Vikings.”
You can’t teach speed and Odenigbo has it like few others. He’s going to face a stiff challenge given the depth the Vikings have at D-end, but he’s prepared to face that challenge and try to make it hard for the Vikings to cut him.
If it means anything, he’s already learning the ropes of dealing with the media. As he spoke to the local media throng from Knife Time restaurant – getting quizzical looks from his fellow restaurant patrons, what was going to be a meal to get away from his frustration turned into a celebratory meal and he knew what he was going to order to celebrate.
“What would a Viking order?” Odenigbo asked. “I think a Viking would order a steak. That’s what I’m doing right there, because that’s what men do.”
It’s definitely what freshly minted Norsemen do.