David Ojabo: From soccer in Aberdeen to potential NFL greatness
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Aberdeenshire’s David Ojabo is living the American Dream pursuing his NFL goal.”A crazy story” is how Scotland’s David Ojabo describes his journey from American football novice to being touted as a potential National Football League star of the future.Three years ago, the 19-year-old, who grew up in Aberdeenshire, had never played the sport.Now he is a top prospect at one of the United States’ leading college football teams, the University of Michigan’s acclaimed Wolverines side, where he was recently named as their defensive scout team player of the year.”Four years ago, this was merely a dream,” he tells BBC Scotland. “I would never have thought I would be an American Football player, playing for Michigan, but now I am here, I am trying to make money, I am trying to go to the NFL, I am trying to provide for my family, trying to be someone people can look up to, and dream, and make dreams come true.”From basketball to 100m in 10.8 secondsOjabo’s family moved from Nigeria to work in Aberdeen when he was seven and he says “I see myself as a Scotsman”.It looked like he was set for a basketball career when he left his adopted home three years ago to develop his skills in the sport at high school in New Jersey.But it was an eye-catching outing on the running track that cemented his move into the world of Gridiron.”Track is what made people turn their heads, because I ran a 10.8 second 100m and people saw that I was big and fast – and that is a recipe for American Football in their eyes – so I gave it a shot,” he explains.
”I was athletic, I could jump, I won the pre-state championship for track, so people were like ‘wow, this big guy, who is a basketball player, is coming over here and winning a 100m dash’, so from then on, people were in my ear saying ‘you have got to try, you have got to try’.”Ojabo, who is a towering 6ft 5ins and weighs just under 18 stone, admits he did have some initial reservations.”Of course, being a soccer player, then a basketball player, contact and all those head shots just didn’t seem appealing to me, watching from the sideline,” he says.”You see full-grown men going at full speed into each other, but I just saw the opportunity that was there, I looked past that and saw what the future held and I had to get over that fear.”But for anybody who hasn’t played the sport before, they probably understand it is not an easy task putting on a helmet facing up against somebody who is probably bigger than you, stronger than you, faster than you. It is a test of will to see who wants it more.”‘I’m waiting on my time, but my time is coming’On finishing high school, Ojabo’s soaring reputation made him a man in demand and he received scholarship offers from 35 of the US’s top educational institutions.He eventually opted for the University of Michigan, where he combines his continued football education with studying for a business degree.”Honestly, I went in with zero expectation and I said I would put my head down and work and see what happens,” Ojabo says. “Michigan is just all round greatness in my eyes. I feel like also it had a little Scotland in it too because of the weather, so it was just where I felt most at home, it was where I felt like it could set me up for the future, the best after football and with football.”Ojabo is half way through his first year and hopes to make his Wolverines debut at the start of next season.
David Ojabo stresses that “I haven’t done anything yet”When he does, he can expect to step out in front of crowds of more than 100,000 at the massive Michigan Stadium, which is one of the world’s largest sports venues.”Every time I go, I take it in,” he says. “When I run out of the tunnel, I just look out at all the fans and wait on my time – and my time is coming soon.”The Aberdeenshire athlete is being tipped for big things in the game, but the level-headed teenager is taking everything in his larger than average stride.”I have a lot of people around me who keep me humble, keep me grounded, such as my family and friends,” he adds. “Like I said, I am new to this sport, so I am just going with the flow.”I see the potential, I know what I could do, but I haven’t done anything yet, so I just keep my head low until I come up.”