Cleveland Browns rookie Larry Ogunjobi has transformed himself from a fat kid to an NFL player, which means he should easily be a fan favorite.
As Cleveland Browns fans we all naturally cheer for the players on the roster.
After all, nothing good can come from a player failing while they are wearing the Orange and Brown.
But every once in a while there are players that are easier to root for than others, and this year rookie defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi easily fits the bill.
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The Browns selected Ogunjobi in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, making him the first player from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte to be drafted. He was a player that few fans had heard of prior to draft night, but one that the coaching staff was familiar with after working with him at the Senior Bowl.
Ogunjobi arrived in Charlotte just as the school was starting its football program and he went on to be a four-year starter and the leader in tackles for loss every year. All told, he finished his collegiate career with 49 tackles for loss and 13 sacks. He was a second-team All-Conference USA selection his junior year and then made the conference first team as a senior.
He did all that despite not playing football until his sophomore year in high school and, more impressively, transforming his body from being a fat kid on the coach playing video games to one that will be looking to wreak havoc on NFL fields this fall.
According to a story by Scott Petrak in The Chronicle-Telegram, Ogunjobi’s journey from a 350-pound high schooler to a 305-pound NFL rookie began with his mom, Mercy, being concerned about his weight:
"“He’d sit down, eat strawberry Pop-Tarts and just play games all day, all night. He started packing weight. We thought, we have to do something else, get him out, get him active. I’m not going to use the word ‘proud.’ I’m going to say I’m so thankful to God. I feel so blessed. It could have gone the other way — diabetic and all the other things that come with that, but now we’re here.”"
Now, no one should begrudge a young man the occasional Pop-Tart, but at 200 calories per pastry, a box of eight strawberry Pop-Tarts packs in 1,600 calories. And that’s if Ogunjobi stopped at just one box.
Through a combination of football and training, Ogunjobi dropped the excess weight and then hit the weight room to build his body back into its current state, according to Petrak:
"He went from 350 pounds to 237. After the weight loss came the strengthening. He “bulked up” to 267 pounds by the time he was a senior and hasn’t stopped adding power, with the Browns listing him at 6-foot-2, 305 pounds and the muscles obvious when he rolls up his sleeves for practice."
It is that kind of dedication that is going to buy Ogunjobi a lot of goodwill with Browns fans, who like nothing more than rooting for a player with a solid work ethic.
And Ogunjobi has that, as UNC-Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert told clevelandbrowns.com:
"“The No. 1 thing you’re getting out of Larry is he’ll do anything within his power to help the team win. He’s such a team guy. He wanted to work extremely hard at his craft to be excellent on the field so our team could be successful. I think the Browns can really expect a guy that will show up and do everything within his power to help the Browns win games. That’s who he is. He’s a winner through and through.”"
It doesn’t sound like Ogunjobi will be sleeping through any team meetings come the fall, or head off to Las Vegas during a game week.
Hard work and diet can only take a player so far, of course, and eventually they have to combine that with production to build an NFL career.
But from what he’s shown so far, there is little reason to believe that Ogunjobi can’t pull it off.