'It's all destiny' - Nigeria-born Ojabo on NFL move

2 months ago 391
David Ojabo will miss the opening months of the NFL season - which starts in September - as he recovers from a torn AchillesDavid Ojabo will miss the opening months of the NFL season - which starts in September - as he recovers from a torn Achilles

His mum calls him "a destiny child" and - true to form - David Ojabo wasn't going to let a devastating injury setback get in the way of realising his NFL dream.

The hulking Scottish linebacker had known only minor bumps and bruises in his fledgling American football career before he was struck down by an Achilles tear in March.

In a sport renowned for heavy hits, it was a shattering blow to an exciting young talent. To rub salt in the wound, the NFL draft at which his future was to be decided was just weeks away.

It would have been understandable had panic set in amid the uncertainty. Ojabo was a projected first-round pick after rising to prominence with University of Michigan's team, the Wolverines, but the injury dropped him down the pecking order.

The irrepressible 22-year-old kept his sprits high and his unwavering belief was vindicated when the Baltimore Ravens signed him in the second round.

Ojabo now finds himself among some familiar faces as he settles into life with the Ravens and continues his recovery while convinced things could scarcely have worked out better.

"I have been through worse - this is just a small bump in the road for me," he tells BBC Scotland.

"I have never had an injury before so I was just trying to figure out what was going on. I got an MRI that night then surgery two days later, so the road back to recovery was very quick.

"Crying, screaming and worrying is not going to help so I just want to make sure we get the Achilles fixed as soon as possible. I know I will be back 110%."

"It is all about perspective," he adds. "On one hand you could say 'man, he fell out of the first round' but on the other it is 'hey, he is in the perfect fit for him and his career going forward' so that is how I looked at it.

"I am at the Ravens with my old defensive coordinator and my outside linebacker coach, Oz [Ryan Osborn], my old team-mate Odafe Oweh, and [Michigan] coach Jim Harbaugh's brother [John].

"I've gone from Harbaugh to Harbaugh so I couldn't have dreamed it up or written it any better."

David Ojabo has vowed to return stronger from injury in his rookie NFL year after a stellar college career with Michigan WolverinesDavid Ojabo has vowed to return stronger from injury in his rookie NFL year as a Baltimore Ravens player after a stellar college career with the University of Michigan's Wolverines

Nigeria-born Ojabo - who regards Scotland as home after his Aberdeenshire upbringing - has steadily built a reputation as one of American football's top young prospects.

His story is all the more remarkable when you consider that until five years ago, he hadn't played the sport. Having moved from Scotland to the States, he began high school in New Jersey as a 15-year-old with aspirations of making it in basketball or football, before being encouraged to try gridiron when he was 17.

"The dream came true, so for people to feed off that and find motivation from it will mean the world to me because I was just chasing my passion and you see what hard work and persistence gets you," he says.

"Even from young my mum has been calling me a destiny child, so it is just destiny playing out. Even with the injury, it is all destiny.

"I can't question or waver or overthink anything, you just have to roll with the punches and trust that everything is going to work out."

While he will miss the opening months of the season, Ojabo's "ultimate goal" is to win the Super Bowl.

Fame and financial rewards beckon should he continue his career ascent, but that is something 6ft 5in Ojabo is simply taking in his stride.

"It is just talk," he says. "When you play bad they say 'this is the worst guy ever' and when you play good they say you are the best ever.

"You use the fact people are talking about you as motivation to become Scotland's number one athlete. There are no pressures, there is no cockiness, because it is just work and I have got my family who love me."

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