Scotland's Nigeria-born Ojabo primed for stardom in NFL draft

4 weeks ago 342
Aberdeenshire's David Ojabo spoke to BBC Scotland in 2020 about his NFL goal

By the end of this week, Scotland will have a player in the NFL.

David Ojabo, Nigeria-born, but Aberdeen-raised, had never even played American football as recently as 2017. Football, basketball and athletics were his sports of choice.

But the 21-year-old Michigan Wolverines linebacker will be one of around 250 young men hoping to be selected by one of the planet's biggest sports franchises at the NFL draft in Las Vegas over the next three days.

BBC Sport have told Ojabo's story before - but this new chapter could catapult him into an entirely new realm.

So what is the draft?

Essentially, the draft is the NFL's source of recruitment for college athletes. Think of it as a transfer window of sorts.

The league put on a glitzy show full of pomp and circumstance, and this year promises to be one of the biggest yet, taking place in Las Vegas' new $1.9bn Allegiant Stadium.

Each year, approximately 255 players declare for the draft and put their faith in the hands of the 32 NFL teams to decide their future. While going first overall is obviously a big deal, it doesn't always guarantee success. Tom Brady, widely considered to be the greatest of all time, was the 199th pick in the sixth round.

Ojabo will not be in Vegas for the event, which starts at 01:00 BST on Friday and continues into the weekend, but his fate will likely be decided in the first two rounds.

The dream of going in the top 10 may now be a stretch, but his rich - if raw - physical gifts will still make him a coveted option.

'He might drop to the end of the first round'

Some suggested Ojabo could be one of the top 10 picks. But, when trying to impress during a pro-day workout drill at Michigan University, the Scot tore an Achilles.

It was a grievous, but not destructive, blow. Recent NFL players to suffer similar injuries have been back within six months and his talents should not be unduly blunted should his recovery go to plan.

Furthermore, Ojabo's astonishing ascent is such that his actual game experience is very limited in comparison to many of those he is up against, so his first year as a pro was always likely to be heavy on development and light on minutes anyway.

Former Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants cornerback - and BBC NFL Show presenter - Jason Bell suspects the young Scot will only come back stronger.

"What would he have been? Top 15? Now he might drop to the end of the first round, maybe early second," he told the NFL UK podcast.

"We've seen with other players that it is not the injury it once was. It gives him time to get better, stronger, quicker, faster because he can work on his body in this time off and come back wrecking shop."

Regardless, Ojabo is likely to slip a few places as the teams with early picks in the draft - those with the worst records in the previous season - need players who can make an instant impact.

However, Bell's fellow NFL Show presenter - and two-time Super Bowl champion - Osi Umenyiora, believes Ojabo should still be high on every franchise's watchlist: "If I'm at a team, I'm taking him in the top 10 or 15 regardless, because it's not the injury that it once was with advances in modern medicine."

Potentially one of Scotland's biggest stars?

It's safe to say that becoming an NFL player is a big deal, both in terms of experiences and rewards that come with it.

American football might be the United States' second most well-attended sport, with overall crowds just shy of 18m per season, but it boasts the highest average attendance of 67,000 a game - roughly 20,00 more than the English Premier League attacts.

And when it comes to TV deals, the NFL blows everyone else out of the water. Coming in at $110bn (almost £900m), the league's latest media rights dealexternal-link is one of sport's most substantial agreements ever.

Who's tuning in? Well, the domestic audience is understandably colossal. Games tend to average around 15-20m viewers, increasing as the season unfolds and hitting a dizzying 91m domestic viewers for the Super Bowl. The NFL alone made up 75 of the top 100 most-watched US TV broadcasts in 2021.

So plenty of eyes will be on Ojabo when he does finally pull on his cleats. In fact, he could very quickly become one of the most high-profile Scots in any sport.

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