David Ojabo Hoped for a Reunion With Odafe Oweh

Michigan defensive lineman David Ojabo speaks during a press conference at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, March 4, 2022. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

David Ojabo's reunion extends beyond reuniting with the coach who unlocked his potential at Michigan.

The Ravens' second-round pick will now play for Mike Macdonald, who helped him break out with 11 sacks in his final college season. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, he'll rush the passer with a friend.

Ojabo is a close friend of Ravens outside linebacker Odafe Oweh, a relationship that dates back to their high school days at Blair Academy in New Jersey.

Oweh had almost instant success once he started playing football for the first time in the 11th grade. Seeing what Oweh did inspired Ojabo to knock on the football coach's door at Blair the following season.

Ojabo has also developed into an athletic edge rusher and one of the top defensive prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. He's coming off a breakout season at Michigan with 11 sacks and will show off his rare athleticism at the Combine.

Imagine Oweh and Ojabo as bookends in Baltimore's pass rush next season, playing for new Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald, who coached Ojabo last year at Michigan. It's a reunion that Ojabo would welcome, but his bond with Oweh will continue regardless of what transpires in the draft.

"We're in close contact," Ojabo said when asked how frequently he talks to Oweh. "We're new to this. We don't have dads who played, uncles who played, friends who played. We have some much wisdom to gain, but we have the athletic ability to be sky high.

"I know he's supporting me regardless. That's my brother, that's my guy. If we were reunited, we'd do our thing to say the least."

Born in Nigeria and raised in Scotland, Ojabo didn't move to the United States until he was 15 years old. Like Oweh, Ojabo is a gifted athlete with long arms, listed at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, and his stats last season were more impressive than Oweh's numbers at Penn State during his final college season.

In his latest mock draft, NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah predicted Ojabo would be drafted at No. 15, one pick after Baltimore picks at No. 14. The Ravens are looking to upgrade their pass rush and Ojabo could have instant impact playing for a coordinator in McDonald who utilized Ojabo's versatility in a variety of ways as a pass rusher, run defender, coverage linebacker and quarterback spy.

One of Ojabo's college teammates, Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, could be the top player taken in the draft. Asked what Ojabo will bring to the NFL, Hutchinson smiled.

"Ojabo, he's a monster man," Hutchinson said. "He's got so much potential. I can't wait to see him at this level. He's got a lot in front of him, a lot of good years in football."

Ojabo doesn't view himself as an instant success in football, but as someone who was willing to work hard enough to improve quickly. During his first few games in high school, Ojabo felt out of his element.

"I won't lie, when I first started in high school I was getting smacked around by little dudes," Ojabo said. "That didn't sit right with me. The toughest thing was the contact aspect. Coming from basketball, if you bump someone it's a foul. Soccer, if you bump someone too hard, it's a foul. Football, if you're not bumping someone, you're not playing.

"My freshman year (at Michigan) I took a big jump when I started playing against future NFL lineman like (Jon) Runyan (Jr.), Cesar Ruiz. That just bettered me even more."

Whenever Ojabo needs advice, he knows Oweh will lend a friendly ear. After Oweh left high school for Penn State, Ojabo would frequently call his older friend and they would encourage each other.

"He only played one more year than me, so he was still learning, too," Ojabo said. "I would ask him questions. I would text him. He has that year step on me, we just feed off each other. I lean on him a lot."

Ojabo also benefitted at Michigan from playing with Hutchinson, an edge rusher who was more experienced and often double-teamed. Ojabo learned from watching Hutchinson's technique, and copied some of his off-field habits as well.

"In my head I'm like, 'If I do what he does, I'll be top-five (pick), too,'" Ojabo said. "I just latched onto everything he did – workouts, film. I started asking him about eating and sleeping habits."

Now Ojabo has likely played himself into the first round, but he doesn't know where he'll be playing next season. If it's in Baltimore, reuniting with Oweh and Macdonald would add another chapter to an unlikely story. Ojabo got a late start in football, but he loves it now.

"I'm a natural-born competitor," he said. "Anything I do, I fall in love with competing. I'm here, I'm sure they (teams) see something. I'm just getting started."

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