When David Ojabo was 14 he wrote down his vision for the future across seven Post-it notes and stuck them on the wall of his bedroom in Westhill, Aberdeen, Scotland. His mother tweeted out a photo of the wall a few weeks ago, and among the Post-its are hand-written thoughts such as “America-bound” and “when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you will be successful.”
Ojabo has lived his words; after picking up football just five years ago, he is one of Pro Football Focus’ twenty highest-graded pass rushers in the nation. Ojabo’s rapid ascension may be tightly tied to his vision, but that doesn’t make it any less surprising to him. “I keep saying it’s like a dream,” he said. “I go home every day and lay down my head and just kind of think ‘what’s going on?’ Because a lot’s going on. I’m improving every day, but it’s like a dream, honestly.”
Another of Ojabo’s notes on his vision wall read “I can, I will, just watch.” Those who have watched him this season have seen marked improvement in each area of his game, and he has taken it upon himself to use all the resources at his disposal to improve those areas, part of which involves, well, watching. “The biggest difference is film. Just film, film, film. Knowing my opponent and knowing myself, figuring out the rules, just everything. Just diving deep into the game and putting in hours.”
On Saturday, Ojabo’s parents will get to watch him play a football game in person for the first time. They’re arriving on Thursday, and he’ll use some of his Thanksgiving holiday to show them what life is like these days through his eyes. “It’s a different world for them out here, so I’m gonna just show them what I’ve been seeing because we’re used to Scotland and the countryside views and all that, but Ann Arbor and just America’s a whole lot different. I’ll show them around.”
During their interview on Inside Michigan Football Monday night, host Jon Jansen asked Ojabo how he would prepare his mother for seeing the speed and aggression of the game up close and personal for the first time. “Oh man, she’s gotta know that it’s different seeing it in the flesh,” he said. “You’re gonna hear the pads popping, you’re gonna hear even the fans chirping, so she’s got to just keep her cool and know her son’s okay.”
Five years of football may seem like limited experience, but Ojabo has been preparing for games of this nature since he put his thoughts on paper and created his vision wall seven years ago. After all, there was a note in the top left corner that both applies to the Ohio State game and should go a ways toward assuaging any fear his family might feel seeing the violence of football play out in front of their eyes. “Pain,” it says, “is temporary.”
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