Say it with me, one more time.
Got it? Good. Because if the seventh round pick out of Northwestern has his way, Ifaedi Odenigbo is going to make people remember his name.
Odenigbo is a rookie, and he’s well aware of the duties that come with his status. As he came off the field following practice on Friday afternoon, he was hauling the helmet and shoulder pads of veteran teammate Tom Johnson. Odenigbo’s outgoing and gregarious personality is infectious, which has seemed to endear him to his fellow players. Throughout our conversation, several defensive linemen gave him a pat on the back or a fist bump as they walked by. It’s hard not to smile along with Odenigbo when he talks.
Ifeadi has a reputation as a cerebral player. When you come out of Northwestern, that will happen. But Odenigbo begs to differ.
I think OTAs and Training Camp have been pretty difficult. The coaches have been on my ass. But now I think it’s starting to click pretty well. I don’t know if this is anything I should be telling people, but I haven’t always been a guy that catches onto things quick. People always say “oh, he’s a quick learner,” but I’ve never been that guy. But once I get it, I’m pretty solidified in the system. I think the last couple of days I’m starting to catch on it now. I think I’m clicking at the right time.
It appears to be clicking on the field as well. Odenigbo has enjoyed a solid week of Training Camp, making some impressive plays in both drills and full-team work. But there’s still plenty of room for him to improve, and he’s well aware of it. In fact, he’s looking to shed some of the more “cerebral” parts of his game and just play.
My coaches are cleaning up my pass rush angle and what I’m doing with my hands. I’m starting to think less. At times, people say I’m a cerebral guy. That’s not always a good thing. You can tend to overthink it. Now I’m getting more comfortable, getting more repetition. Now I’m starting to get off and empty my mind.
With the Buffalo game only five days away, Odenigbo explained that the team is starting to install some of the specifics for his first NFL contest. “We’re installing new things along with working on technique, so you’ve always got to adjust on the fly...it’s all about being attentive during meetings and applying what [the coaches] are teaching.”
Odenigbo’s career got off to a rocky start. He suffered a deep cut to his foot in a freak injury from a swimming pool gate closing on it. Thankfully, the worst of it seems to be behind him. It will take more than a gate to stop Odenigbo from playing.
The foot’s feeling better. It’s football. I’ve gone through worse, so the foot is not an issue. Nothing’s going to stop me from playing football. It’s such a great feeling being in the National Football League.
The rookie has a lot of personal goals, but he realizes that there’s only one goal at the moment—making the team.
I wanna stay here. Just one step at a time. I’d love to be an All-Pro rookie, but first thing’s first. In order to do that, I gotta make the Practice Squad or the roster. I gotta do my part on special teams. I can’t look at things in general and say “Oh, I want to be a Hall of Famer.” How can you be a Hall of Famer when you’re still trying to compete to make the 53-man roster?
Odenigbo knows that he has some excellent players to learn from on his team. The Vikings have one of the most talented and deep defensive lines in the league, and Odenigbo is absorbing everything he can from them. And the player that he is learning from the most might surprise you.
The guy that’s helping me the most is probably Sharrif [Floyd]. Sharrif’s going through an injury right now, but he has just kind of brought me under his wing. And he’s really told me stuff like, “Hey Ifeadi, you’re overthinking man. Relax. Just relax. When the tackle’s doing this, do this. When the tackle’s doing that, do that.” And Brian Robison, just having a vet like that to talk to is great. For me, guys like Sharrif and Brian, I’m always trying to pick their brains. But I’m not trying to ask too many questions because I don’t want to annoy the f out of them. [Laughs] Those two guys are just remarkable, and I’m grateful to them.
Football is Odenigbo’s profession, and it’s a profession he is obviously very passionate about. But Odenigbo has plenty of interests outside of the sport he plays. He was a FIFA junkie in college that watched a lot of soccer, including his favorite team, Manchester City. These days it’s a little tougher to keep up though.
I haven’t been up to date. They’re professional athletes, and so am I. Back at the collegiate level I had a little more time, but [Manchester City] is still my squad. But one day I’m going to get to the UK and get to a game. Oh man, you can bet I’m gonna do that. Kevin De Bruyne is my guy.
Odenigbo is also a big Game of Thrones fan. He even had a Thrones-inspired sack celebration at Northwestern. Will he break it out when he gets a sack at the next level? You better believe it.
I’m going to get even more ignorant with it! It’s gonna be even more, man! In college I had to tone it down because I’m not trying to get a flag. But if I get a sack on a Tom Brady or someone like that, I’m going to let the whole world know. And then get my butt back home to catch the next season of Game of Thrones.
Like Daenerys Targaryen, Odenigbo has a long road ahead of him before reaching his goal. And just like the Mother of Dragons on his favorite show, the seventh round pick is going to have a lot of people rooting for him to make it.