Odafe Oweh approaches football like a classroom, and he is intent on becoming an honor student.
After playing the sport for just five years, Oweh is a first-round draft pick. Talk about a rapid rise. Yet, he still has much to learn, which gives the Ravens legitimate reason to be excited about Oweh's future.
What the Ravens see in the talented edge rusher is what everyone saw when he stole the show during his Pro Day workout at Penn State. Oweh is an unusually gifted athlete and his quickness, agility and strength were obvious again during Saturday's open practice at Ravens rookie minicamp.
Now comes the next step for Oweh, to improve his technique and learn the Ravens' system quickly enough to make impact plays as a rookie. Oweh's talent makes him capable of becoming a defensive force, and he welcomed the coaching he received during rookie minicamp.
"It was great," Oweh said. "It's a lot of hard work, which I pride myself on. It's a lot of seeping in information, trying to be able to pick up things fast and then be able to do it fast on the field as well. The tempo is obviously different. Practice is game tempo, and walkthroughs are like practice tempo. It was a great adjustment. I love the way it's going right now, and I can feel myself getting better."
Outside Linebackers Coach Drew Wilkins attended Oweh's lights-out Pro Day performance before the draft and called it the best workout he had ever seen.
That made it more interesting to watch Wilkins and other coaches working off to the side with Oweh during Saturday's minicamp practice. Oweh is like a gem the coaches are trying to polish. They want to give him every chance to shine.
Head Coach John Harbaugh loves Oweh's approach, and while he is being loaded with information, the coaches don't want him to overthink his playmaking instincts on the field.
"That's part of the art to the whole thing – we want him to play fast," Harbaugh said. "We could put a period after that. Let's do that. And if we're going to make a mistake along the way – I think it goes for really any rookie – make it going full speed. We want to play 100 miles an hour, so let's do that. Then we'll work back from there, in terms of our assignments and responsibilities. He's also a very smart player, and he picks things up quickly. [He has] a nice demeanor. You saw him out there today, works extremely hard. I do think he'll pick things up quickly."
Oweh's competitive nature is another plus. He hasn't forgotten that some people didn't expect him to be a first-round pick. He didn't start playing football until midway through high school, and despite being a disruptive force on defense at Penn State, Oweh didn't register a sack last season.
However, don't suggest to Oweh that he "snuck" into the first round as the 31st-overall pick.
"In my mind, I feel like I went right where I was supposed to be," Oweh said. "I don't feel like I snuck into anything, but I feel like Baltimore is my home, was where I was supposed to be, where God wanted me to be."
Oweh's demeanor suggests that he won't be intimidated when he competes against veterans during training camp and the regular season. Edge rushers study other edge rushers, looking for pass-rushing techniques to incorporate into their games. But revealing Oweh's favorite NFL pass rushers is something he longer wishes to discuss.
"I would have said it before I got drafted, but I'm not going to say it now," Oweh said. "They're my opponents now. They're people I'm trying to play against."
As an outside linebacker in Martindale's multi-faceted defense, Oweh's responsibilities could change from series to series, or play to play. He was a disruptive run defender in college, and stopping the run is always a priority in Baltimore. Meanwhile, Oweh's athleticism gives him an excellent chance to develop as a pass rusher, to become that every-down player that teams look for in a first-round selection.
Oweh is determined to make a difference on defense from Week 1, and how quickly he feels comfortable in the system will help determine if that happens. His NFL crash course has just begun, but Oweh feels good about his early progress.
"I'm obviously relatively new, but it's just really encouraging, because I've been playing for five years, but I'm making plays out there [with] an NFL team," Oweh said. "I came from a 4-3 defense, and I'm playing outside linebacker. So, I'm picking it up pretty well, and it's making me feel good about my versatility and what I can do, and I'm just seeping in more and more information. It's a good start."