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One-on-One: Larry Ogunjobi, Charlotte DL

Fri, Apr 14, 2017

Reese's Senior Bowl: You're the first Charlotte NFL prospect, what has this whole situation been like for you?
Larry Ogunjobi: It's just a blessing, man. I can't even begin to just say how big of a blessing this is. To be the first and to be a part of this whole entire process. I can't even really put it into words but it means a lot. It means a lot to be the first because it's something that no one can ever take away from you. Just laying that foundation for the guys are coming after you - the people who think that if I go to this school am I gonna be able to do all the things that I said I'd be able to. I feel like me being the person that I've been is I'm kind of debunking that notion - that you don't have to go to a big school. You don't have to go to the Alabama's or the Florida's or any of the really big-time schools. If you're good enough, they're going to come find you. It's not where you go, it's what you do there. That's been my motto since I started and I think that just everything that's happened as a result of that has just been such a blessing and I can't thank God enough. 

RSB: I listened to some other interviews that you did and one thing that stood out was that you emphatically stated that you hate the small school label.
Ogunjobi: Yes. I'm not a big fan. Football is a game of emotion and passion - just drive. Just because of a school that you went to, that doesn't mean that you lack those characteristics, that doesn't mean that you have those characteristics. Sometimes people get so caught up in love with this logo that they take a person out of the entire equation and I don't think that's fair. Regardless of what school you went to, if your'e a good football player, you're a good football player. It shows, you see the guys who did go to the big schools who have made a lot of noise in the NFL, who has done really well. I feel like it really comes down to the person you are and that person's belief in themself. If they believe they're good enough to do it then they'll go out there and do it. I feel like that's the key factor.

RSB: You were a part of Charlotte's first-ever recruiting class. Did you realize at that time in your life what you were getting into?
Ogunjobi: Well since I started football so late, ignorance was kind of bliss for me just because I didn't really have anything to compare Charlotte to so I kind of just went with the flow and just, you know, I knew that Charlotte would be moving up in Division and I knew I wanted to play against the best competition but I really kind of just went with it. I knew my goal was to be the best. In every single thing that I did at Charlotte, my goal was to be the best - whether it was off the field, whether it was on the field, in the classroom, it didn't matter. It was just being the best, that was my main focus. Throughout this whole process, I see the fruits of that labor and I just understand that it's something that has to continue. The next level, it demands more from you. I feel like that's what my focus is now, just taking the things that I've learned from Charlotte - the mentality, the understanding of it's not where you start, it's where you finish - and taking that mindset and going on to the next level and continuing to have that same attitude, that same chip on my shoulder to continue to want to go out there and be the best in everything I do. That's kind of how Charlotte helped me. 

RSB: Charlotte is also close to home with your parents, Larry and Mercy being in Greensboro, North Carolina. You're the son of two Nigerian immigrants and your parents have persevered a lot, even to keep their partnership together. Just knowing the story of your parents, what have you learned from them?
Ogunjobi: Effort counts twice. In life, we're always going to find something better, whether it be the way somebody looks, how tall they are, there's always gonna be somebody out there that's better than what you have, right? But, you have to find the best thing for you and I understand that watching my parents and watching how they've grown is effort - it's all about how bad do you want something, how much are you willing to sacrifice? That's the key word: sacrifice. What are you willing to give up to gain something even greater? I've seen that in my parents, they've instilled that mentality in me that if I want something - nothing good in life comes easy - I'm gonna have to work for it. I'm gonna have to work harder than everybody else to get what I want and that's just my belief. That's how I feel about it. So when I watch my parents - you know my dad works back-to-back 16-hour shifts, my mom had quit her job when I was younger just to take care of me - and you see the things that they've done, the sacrifices they've made just for my well-being. The position in I'm today, I can't thank them enough either. So just seeing them and seeing how they've worked, I just understood that it's effort - that's the key component, it's just effort. It's all about how hard you work because the hardest worker in the room is always gonna win and that's just how I feel. 

RSB: I read that your dad when he first came to the United States and your mother was still in Nigeria, that your dad sent her a love note every single day. That's a great story.
Ogunjobi: My dad was a bit of a casanova I guess. But yeah, like I said just the things that he did and just watch and me hearing those stories, my mother telling me about it, was just, it's just kind of surreal because when he sending those notes, he didn't know that he'd be in this position today that his son would be on the verge of getting drafted, that he would have a wife and two kids. I don't think he knew that but like I said before, it's effort. When you want something bad enough, you're going to find a way to get it. You're gonna do what it takes to put yourself in the best position to achieve your goals and I feel like that's what he did. 

RSB: You've used the word effort so many times and it makes sense because the coaching staff at Charlotte compliments your work ethic, which obviously correlates with effort. Why is that work ethic so important to you? And what's it like to have that kind of support from your coaches, especially your defensive line coach, Aaron Curry, who was the 4th overall draft pick when he came out?
Ogunjobi: When I sit back and think about it, I just knew that I had to be different. If I wanted to do the things that I said I wanted to do like the goals I had set for myself - if I wanted to be the best I had to work like the best. You don't wait til you're a professional to start acting like one. You have to already envision yourself as the best player, you have to act like the best player - whether it's through your workouts, whether it's running sprints, whether it's rehab, whether it's treatment, whether it's taking care of those minute details, watching film, you have to act like that. You have to live that because what you are is what you consistently do. You're a product of what you consistently do each and every day. And that's who you are. So if you're a hard worker and you consistently go out each and every day and give it your best effort you'll find a way to be the best. But if you consistently give lackadaisical effort, if you're kind of halfway through, that's your result. I knew that going to Charlotte, I had to work outwork everybody, I had to outlast everybody. I had to put myself in the position where I had to make you guys like the Senior Bowl, NFLPA, East-West Shrine Bowl, Combine - I had to make you guys come and watch me. I've watched the Senior Bowl ever since I got to Charlotte. I've watched the Combine from the gym. I've watched the draft from the gym because one day I wanted to be there. Every thing is now coming full circle and it's just surreal to me.  

RSB: I had heard that you've been watching the Senior Bowl and you wanted to be a part of it. Obviously a big opportunity for the best NFL prospects but for you specifically, why was it so important that you wanted to be a part of the Senior Bowl so badly?
Ogunjobi: I think it's because I just wanted to debunk that small-school thing. To me, right now, it doesn't matter because at the end of the day we're all right now, we're all in the boat - every prospect right now is in this pot and we're all trying to join this fraternity which is the NFL. And when you get into the NFL whether you're first round, you're seventh friend, undrafted college free agent, it doesn't matter. You have an opportunity and what you do with that opportunity is yours. But when it came to the Senior Bowl, I just wanted a chance to go out there and showcase myself because I knew that's where the best talent was. I knew all those guys were getting drafted and were going high and these were the guys that I would watch on Sunday and I wanted to be a part of that. I watched the 1-on1s, I watched the practices, I watched everything. I could literally walk you through what the commentators would say when they were talking about Kawann Short and his size just to get across the center. When they were talking about the kid Eric Fisher from Central Michigan, when he was locking everybody up, I watched those kind of things. It's almost like in order - a lot of people have a vision but there's no roadmap. And I knew that my roadmap to get into the Senior Bowl was what I did on the field, what I did off the field. God took care of the rest. I can't take all the credit because my God is good, man. 

RSB: I saw you at the Southern Miss game, that was a big win for your team, and met you briefly after the game. That game was one of 46 games in program history - every single game in program history that you started. That kind of durability can really speak to a lot.
Ogunjobi: I've been banged up here and there but I don't know, I guess I just been blessed, Patrick. I can't really explain it but you know there's times where I was like 'Man, I don't know if I can play' but then I would wake up Saturday and I just feel stronger, I feel the energy and just go out there and I just play. I knew I had to give it my all. You always got to keep checking boxes, you always gotta keep separating yourself. At the end of the day, Patrick, it's about being different. We live in a society that where everybody gets so boxed in to what you can and can't do. But I live outside of that box. I wanna change the way the game is played. I wanna change the way the position is played. I knew that to continue to do the things that I did, I had to be on the field, I had to play. I couldn't miss a game. I was just so fortunate to start all 46 games in my college career. It's just been a blessing. I say that a lot. I know I use "effort" and "blessings" a lot but that's who I am. I told you my God is good and my work ethic, effort, that's the key, man. If you believe in yourself and you have the work ethic to see your vision through, stick to that roadmap, and to find a way. It's gonna be bumpy, there's gonna be ups, there's gonna be downs, there's gonna be trials and tribulations and you're gonna wake up one morning and not wanna do it but those are the days you better press through and find a way to finish.  

RSB: I know you're deep in faith as is your family. Your sister is even named Faith. Is this is a fact that you have read the Bible multiple times?
Ogunjobi: Yup, I've read the Bible front-to-back seven times. 

RSB: Seven times?
Ogunjobi: Yes, sir. 

RSB: What is your favorite verse?
Ogunjobi: Matthew 23:12 talks about "those who humble themselves shall be exalted and those who exalt themselves shall be humbled." The one thing about football and my coach used to always say "humble pie." Football doesn't give you a lot of time to stay high but it doesn't give you a lot of time to stay low because you gotta earn it each and every day. That's just a constant reminder to stay humble, stay hungry. I think people sometimes get misconstrued with humility. I'm not weak, I'm not scared. I'm just very humble because I know it's way bigger than me. It's not just about me and what I've done. The people that God has put in my life that have instilled certain characteristics in me that have allowed me to become this person today and I feel as though you gotta stay humble because if you don't, God will humble you real quick. And I've been humbled before. I understand that and that's why it's one of my verses. 

RSB: You go back to the start of your football career as a sophomore in high school - 350 pounds is what you weighed - and you had to overcome some hardship early on. Why did you even start to play football
Ogunjobi: It's a funny story. So I was 350 pounds. My parents said I was getting too fat so they took away my game system and got me a coach. His name was Robert Mitchell. He trained me for about a month or so and he got me down to about 330 and then me and him rode to the high school one day and I was like "What are we doing here?" and he was like "You're gonna play football" and I was like "No, I'm not" and he was like "Yes you are" and I'm like "No I'm not" and he got the permission slip from the lady at the front desk. We give it to my mom, my mom signs it and I was on the football field that Saturday. I can't even get in a football stance. I couldn't finish the first workout and the coaches came up to me the next day and they were like, "Larry, we just wanna make sure you're still here" and I was like "Yeah I'm still here, Coach" but like in my head I was like "only because I have to be." Throughout that process, after that JV season, I won Most Improved Player and that was the first time in my life where I feel like I earned something that I actually worked for. I realized that football is something I can do. I just kind of dedicated myself to the grind per-say. 

RSB: And then the grind doesn't stop after your collegiate career ends because you go straight down to the EXOS training facility in Pensacola. I went down to see you, there's a lot of good people down here, give us a briefing on your EXOS experience.
Ogunjobi: It was fun. At first, I was kind of like, you know. I'm a lifter. I like to get in the weight room. I like to work hard. I like to grind it out, doing squats and power clean, all that kind of stuff. But EXOS kind of gave you the science and the functional movement of stuff, how the whole body works. I had a good background with medicine and biology and all that kind of stuff so it was cool to actually hear the science behind why they did certain things, why we do lift heavy this day, why didn't we run this day, why we ran a lot this day. Functional movement - figuring out how all these intrinsic muscles work together. It really made a lot of sense. It kind of put the science behind it. I enjoyed it. The best part about it was the people - Hob, Coach Russ - all those people, it really helped throughout the entire process. It was just good because they made us feel like a family. Then of course the guys you were training with always make it fun, too. It was a good experience. I enjoyed it. 

RSB: Biology was one of your two majors at Charlotte. Is medical school still kind of in your future?
Ogunjobi: Yes, hopefully after a long career and then hopefully I can get into cancer research and things like that. Probably start a non-profit and just find ways to help people because at the end of the day, Patrick, life is bigger than you. Just like I mean the world to my parents, you mean the world to somebody that's gonna treat you like such. So if I can find a way to help people and just really be that person that can help change somebody's life, I think that's really important. 

RSB: So take us back to January and the start of this process. You're coming to the Reese's Senior Bowl walking amongst the best prospects in the country. What's that feeling like when you get ready to come here?
Ogunjobi: Excitement. It's finally here and I'm ready to go. I was ready to prove something, not to anybody else but just to myself that the belief I had about myself was true. And it was. I was excited to get out there and have a good time and compete and play football again because I hadn't played since November 26 so it was good to put the pads back on and get a feel for things again. It was exciting. It was a good experience. I liked it a lot. Mr. Savage and they did a great job as far as the whole process and getting the players. I think the funnest part for me was probably the community service and going and talking to the kids - just to see their faces because the kids don't really know who you are but they're just happy because you're there and you're there to see them and you're signing autographs and they're so excited. I thought that was a really cool experience.  

RSB: What about the NFL Combine and it's comparable to the Senior Bowl?|
Ogunjobi: I would say the biggest thing about the Combine is really they're just trying to see how mentally tough you are because you know everybody, whether you wake up early and go to sleep late, whether it's the interviews, whether teams wanna talk to you about certain things, whether you just can't sleep because you might have anxiety, you might be too excited, you might have to get treatment on something - there's so many factors but that's what being a professional is all about. You have to put yourself in that situation and see how you carry yourself. I loved the Combine. It got really fun the day we benched because that was when you got your competitive juices going and it really actually got you started doing something. The first couple days, I wouldn't say they were bad, it was just kind of like, it was a lot of hurry up and wait and that kind of sucks but at the same time, I knew this was gonna be a test like everything you do is being evaluated - how you speak to people, how you interact with the staff, are you on time, what's your body language going to be like? Those things, you know, they matter. I feel like it's all about the little things. I enjoyed it. I had a blast. It was surreal. I was ecstatic because it was like 'alright, now we've crossed another hurdle.' I knew pro day was coming up so finish pro day and now like I'm training and I'm taking visits, all that kind of things but it's good. Throughout this whole process, my biggest thing was just enjoy it. Like don't get so focused on the outcome that you forget the process. You gotta enjoy the journey because that's what makes the outcome so promising, so fruitful, it just makes it that much better when you enjoy the process and then when you get to the endpoint, the outcome, it just makes it so much more fulfilling and I feel like that was my biggest thing, just being able to enjoy this process and make the most of it.

RSB: You mention the visits, how have they been going?
Ogunjobi: Good. Not too bad, I can't complain. I just be myself. That's the biggest thing, just be yourself. You don't wanna put on this front and then when the going gets tough, the real you comes out. Just be genuine from the start and I feel like everything else will take care of itself. That's just who I've been. The guy you're on the phone with is the guy that you met in-person at Southern Miss or the guy that you talked to when you came to EXOS in Pensacola. That's just who I am.  

RSB: And you are who you are on Twitter, too, right, Larry? I see all these motivational tweets from you. I'm like, what's the next one going to be? You're a very motivated individual. Do you already know what you're gonna tweet next?
Ogunjobi: I kind of just, like, me, I'm very analytical. I just sit around and I'm just a thinker, I like thinking. Sometimes I'll hear something or like I see something that really stands out to me. I'll just be sitting in the car, like I'm going to wash my car right now, and I might think of something interesting in the car wash, just reflecting on stuff. A lot of times, people don't ever take the time out of the day to just take a step back and kind of meditate, put away the phone and put away everything else and just kind of think. When you start thinking, you start seeing things more clearly so I just know that I have a platform and how I use my platform is my choice. I'll go back and look at my tweets from when I was in high school and some of the things I was saying then, I would say now. Like I said, you are who you are and I feel as my platform gets bigger, hopefully I can reach more people and they can realize like my motto, it's not where you go, it's what you do there; it's not where you start, it's where you finish. The power of belief is so strong that - the men who says he can, and the men who says he can't are both right. What you believe is what's gonna happen. I just feel like if I can continue to preach and drop little nuggets on people, hopefully it'll help out. I know that when people say certain things to me, and they're encouraging, I like that, it helps. So I want to help other people too so hopefully they read my tweets and it helps. 

RSB: I feel like you and I could sit here and talk forever but I've already taken a lot more of your time than I intended to so thanks a lot and best of luck to you in the future. It's almost time for you to hear your name called and we're excited for that moment right there along with you.
Ogunjobi: Thanks, big guy. I appreciate it.