MEET THE ROOKIE: ODAFE OWEH


Last time, we saw how a chaotic childhood blossomed into a dream come true. Today’s story is one, while not the tearjerker like yesterday, is one that I find very interesting.

Odafe Oweh is one of four children of Nigerian-born parents, Tania and Henry Oweh. Odafe was born and raised in New Jersey. Many of these stories start with a young kid who has big dreams of playing in the NFL; well, Odafe wasn’t like those kids. Odafe’s football journey started late and almost didn’t happen at all. He dreamed of being a star D1 Basketball player.

Heading into his Junior year, he enrolled at Blair Academy in Blairstown, New Jersey, home of one of if not the most prestigious basketball programs in the start, to do just that. Blair Academy currently has 460 students enrolled and 30 varsity teams; as someone who grew up in a small town, that’s not many kids. I bring this piece of information to you; for this reason, Blair doesn’t necessarily force students to play multiple sports, but it becomes much much easier to get accepted if you play multiple if you get where I’m going. And this is where his football journey begins.

While sitting in the Admissions office, the football HC Jim Saylor happened to walk by and, like the coach he is, noticed a 6-plus foot tall athlete and introduced himself. Saylor initially asked if Odafe was there to play football, which he literally laughed at before telling Coach he was there to play basketball. Saylor encouraged Odafe to try football, and upon learning the academy “encouraged” a secondary sport, Odafe took Saylor’s suggestion and signed up to play football. Finally, as a Junior in Highschool, Odafe stepped onto the football field for the first time in his life. Even being a super athletic 16-year old, he had some growing pains on the gridiron. He had 0 experience and was learning the basics of the game as a Junior. At first, he hated football. To him, it was too physical. He loved how Basketball was all about finesse. His mom also didn’t like him playing football due to the sheer physicality either. With a long way to go, one thing that stood out to his coaches was his willingness to learn and compete. His teammates had years of experience over him, some 10+ years, but every day he was grinding to catch up to them. After his very first half of football, his coaches thought he had broken his ribs, but he refused to let that slow the progress he was making on the field. As the year went on, his attention shifted from basketball to football. After his Junior year, he began the recruiting process for college, with multiple programs eyeing the potential of Odafe. As a senior, he continued to show improvement, and he became more confident in his play. As a senior, he was the NO. 4 prospect in New Jersey, named to the Mid-Atlantic Prep League, and selected to the Under Armour All-American game.

He received offers from 21 schools including, Alabama, Ohio St, Michigan, Maryland, Georgia, and of course Penn St, where he’d ultimately committed.

At Penn St, he’d go on to be part of a super athletic LB duo with Micah Parsons. The two grow a strong bond, and Parsons has nothing but great things to say about him. Parsons has said he always thought of himself as a “freak” athlete until he saw Odafe. Odafe might not have had a statistically great college career; his athletic ability and potential still launched him to a top pass rusher in the country. As a freshman, Oweh would redshirt his freshman year and only appear in 4 games, only recording stats in 2 of them, notching a total of 2sacks and 3tackles. Redshirting gave him the chance to work on the mental aspects of the game. Identifying offenses and plays before they happen and better his awareness. It also gave him time to work on his technique, becoming quicker off the line and bulk up from his leaner Basketball physique. In his 2nd year at Penn St, he continued to catch the eye, especially after gaining 15lbs of muscle and looking faster than ever on the field. He played in 11 games recording 21tackles, 5sacks, and 2FF. His final year at Penn St, like the others, wasn’t a year the stats jumped out at you, no sacks, 38tackles, 6.5TFLs. Even with no sacks, he showed growth in his game. He was disruptive on plays; he was a bigger, faster defender.

Odafe would, of course, go on to have a ridiculous pro day and absolutely blow away scouts with his freakish athleticism. In a journey that almost never came to be but was set in place by one fateful encounter in an admissions office, Odafe Jayson Oweh is now a Baltimore Raven.

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