Nov 16, 2013; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (14) warms up before the game against the Utah Utes at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Following the 2013 college football season, Oregon cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had a decision to make.
Considered by many draft experts to be a first-round draft pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, Ekpre-Olomu had to decide between going pro or staying at Oregon to complete his degree and help the Ducks make a run at a national championship.
Ekpre-Olomu, of course, decided to stay in school and helped lead the Ducks to an undefeated season and a spot in the inaugural four-team playoff. But rather than take the field with his Oregon teammates against Florida State in the Rose Bowl, Ekpre-Olomu suffered a devastating knee injury in practice, one that sidelined him for the game against the Seminoles and the national championship game against Ohio State, and saw his draft stock take a plunge.
“I feel like it doesn’t really matter where you start, it matters what you do from there and how you finish.” – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu
Come draft weekend, it wasn’t until the seventh round that a team called Ekpre-Olomu’s name. Only one team was willing to take a chance on him — the Cleveland Browns.
“People doubting you thinking you’re not going to be able to come back and play, you’re not going to be at the level you once were. I think that’s really what motivates you every day,” Ekpre-Olomu told the team’s website. “You know what you’re capable of doing. I know how my body feels. You just have to ready to take it day by day and that’s really given me that motivation every day I wake up. Just forget about what happened and what’s going to happen the next day and just focus on what I can improve today.”
To learn a bit more about what the Browns may have in Ekpre-Olomu, we reached out to Justin Phillips at Autzen Zoo for a four-question take on the situation.
Question: What are the Browns getting in Ekpre-Olomu?
Justin: In Ekpre-Olomu, even though he went down with an injury late last season, Cleveland is getting a defensive leader. He was key to Oregon’s season on defense for the better part of his four years with the team. He proved himself in key spots in big games for Oregon.
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Question: Ekpre-Olomu’s injury dropped him in the draft; how much will that drive him to succeed?
Justin: There is no doubt in my mind that Ekpre-Olomu has the determination to return to the football field. He played at Oregon with an injured ankle several times and is a warrior. He will push himself in training camp and should become a vocal leader for the defense in Cleveland.
Question: Do you think he can come back from such a devastating injury?
Justin: I have seen several athletes at Oregon go through similar injuries. Wide receiver Bralon Addison missed all of last season with a leg injury. Ekpre-Olomu will get back on the field, this time in the NFL. However, Browns fans may have to wait until 2016 as an ACL injury is nothing to mess with.
Question: What is one thing about Ekpre-Olomu that Browns fans are going to love?
Justin: His energy on the field. He is vocal and he knows the playbook. At Oregon, he played primarily in the secondary, but also moved to other areas of the defense. It may be another year before Browns fans get to see him, but I believe it will be worth the wait.
Ekpre-Olomu is still rehabbing his injured knee and reportedly will not be able to return to football activities until September. But with the depth the Browns have built at the cornerback position, and with Ekpre-Olomu’s talent, waiting a year could pay off for the Browns.
“Just when you get around the kid, he’s charismatic, he’s all about football, he’s one of us,” defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil told the team’s website. “You just knew right away if there’s somebody who can come back even stronger from the injury he had in bowl practices, it’s that kid. For us to be able to get him with our last pick, he’s a guy that without the injury probably goes in the first round was huge.”
A knee injury has delayed the start of Ekpre-Olomu’s NFL career. But as he said, it’s not where you are now, but where you’re going, that matters most.