The NFL Draft is hours away and one player who is on the Bengals’ radar is Tennessee State defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko. The former Clemson pass rusher who stands at 6’3” and 255 pounds hasn’t had an easy path to the NFL Draft, but he’s looking to prove to teams that he’s matured and moved on from the guy who was dismissed by Dabo Swinney and the tigers back in May 2015.
At Tennessee State, Ogundeko accumulated 148 tackles, 4 passes defensed, 14.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in three seasons with the Tigers. In his final season, he was rewarded as an All-Ohio Valley First Team Selection. But will that be enough for teams to look past his baggage and select him in the 2018 NFL Draft?
I spoke with Ogundeko in the lead up to the draft to discuss how he’s staying in shape, what he’s looking to prove, the NFL players he most enjoys watching and more.
Rebecca Toback: How’s your pre-draft process been going?
Ebenezer Ogundeko: It’s been pretty stressful, even as an opportunity I’ve been ready for my whole life. The most fun part of the process was the NFLPA game, going out to California and playing at the Rose Bowl. It was a great experience, I met a lot of different players and it reminded me kind of like high school. We also stayed in downtown Los Angeles at a pretty cool hotel.
RT: What do you want NFL teams to know about you going into the draft?
EO: I want them to know they’re getting a real consistent and accountable player, that they can trust me and I can be a leader. I’m always like a sponge, I can intake a lot of things and learn a lot and I’m going to give them my full 110% every opportunity I get.
RT: What was it like going from playing at Clemson to Tennessee State?
EO: It was a humbling experience. I just had to start back from square one, just to prove myself and put in my head that good is not good enough. I try to play with a chip on my shoulder and play every play to the fullest. I’ve just learned to fight through adversity. It helped me to be tougher mentalty because I went from a powerhouse, D1 school to D1 AA and it was a humbling experience. I tried to be a leader there early on and help out the people around me as well. I feel like I’ve improved mentally because of it.
RT: What’s your average day like in the lead up to the draft?
EO: I’m just working on my body. It’s my money maker. Just focusing on working out, staying in shape, my flexibility and perfecting my craft.
RT: What do you eat to stay in shape?
EO: I’ve been trying to eat organic foods and I’m trying to gain some weight, so foods high in protein and protein shakes with banana and peanut butter.
RT: What’s your workout routine like to get NFL-ready.
EO: A lot of change of direction, stability stuff, working on my balance and lifting weights, of course. I’ve been working out with a few draft prospects and am currently training in Tampa, Florida.
RT: How was your pro day?
EO: It went pretty well though there were some things I wish I could have done better, but it went pretty well.
RT: What are your plans for this weekend?
EO: I’m just going to hang out and watch the draft on TV with some friends. I’m going to pray. My family is staying back in New York, where I’m from.
RT: What’s the best advice you’ve received during the draft process?
EO: Just to enjoy the process and be the best I can be, because this is a job interview.
RT: What NFL players do you most enjoy watching?
EO: I like to watch Von Miller, Khalil Mack. They’re the best in the game right now and also Yannick Ngakoue on Jacksonville.
RT: What are your goals for this season?
EO: Make a 53-man roster, help my team as much as I can and do anything my coaches need me to do. I just want to improve my game every single year, from year one to year two, and two to three and even from game-to-game.
RT: What do you want NFL fans to know about you if you’re drafted by their favorite team?
EO: I’ve matured; I’ve learned from mistakes I’ve made in the past and I’m not just a football player but a human being as well. You’ll get the best defensive end and special teams player in the draft. I have a dominant game and consistent work ethic.