With the third of their three sixth-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected Oli Udoh, a big offensive tackle from Elon University. He got an opportunity to sit down with the Twin Cities media after his selection, and the folks from the Vikings’ PR Department were kind enough to provide us with this transcript of the Q&A session.
Q: How rare was it to play in both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. What was that experience like?
A: It was pretty fun for me to be able to go through that East-West training. To get that all up was pretty exciting on that Thursday. And then to go to the Senior Bowl, it was a really fun experience to be able to play with my peers and some of the best talent in the nation right now. For the most part, it was a pretty eye-opening and good experience for me going forward.
Q: Do you feel like you had a lot to prove as a small-school player?
A: Yes, that was probably the number one thing for me coming out for this draft. Being from Elon and that level of competition, those two invites and me getting to compete against those guys definitely helped me out with this whole process.
Q: What’s it going to be like dealing with high-motor, quick-twitch guys in NFL?
A: I think it’s going to be a good challenge for me coming from this level of competition. Just being able to adapt, I feel like that’s one thing I would say is my strong suit … just being able to adapt to different circumstances. That entire experience is going to be a good and fun challenge for me. I’m excited to get started with it come camp in a couple weeks.
Q: How do you use your size and frame and wingspan to your advantage?
A: I would say that it really helps on being able to zone block and also in pass protection being able to get my punch out there and my reach out there longer and a lot quicker. That helps me also with the initial contact and getting that a lot faster than regular offensive linemen.
Q: What is the backstory with your parents coming from Nigeria? Do they know about football?
A: My mom came when she was 18, and my dad when he was in his early 30s. They met in the New York/New Jersey area, and I was born in New Jersey. With everything they had learned from Nigeria, they just taught it to me and my other siblings. It definitely helped me with this whole process and just becoming a better player. They loved the game more the more I started playing it in high school. It was honestly a really awesome experience to see that happen.
Q: Are you familiar with Vikings having a few players of Nigerian descent in Ade Aruna and Ifeadi Odenigbo?
A: Yeah, I know both of them actually. Ade is with my agent’s group of people who he represents. And Ifeadi, I knew him because I used to live in Ohio. We lived pretty close to each other and hung out a couple times so that’s pretty cool to be able to join the ranks with more Nigerian players.
Q: Early in your career you weighed as much as 384 pounds. How difficult was it to drop 60 pounds and keep it off?
A: I would say keeping it off is a lot easier than dropping it. The dropping of it was probably the roughest part because I was pretty big, and just being able to change my diet and my weight and then get in shape more, start running and do more cardio to shed the weight was definitely a really tough process. But it was honestly something I wanted to do because I wanted to be the best football player that I could be. I think I’m achieving it, staying at this weight and hopefully progressing from maintaining this weight and playing in the NFL will help me out.
Q: You have great size, but do you think you also have sneaky athleticism to help you execute in the zone scheme?
A: Yeah, I think that’s another huge factor that the Vikings kind of could tell from tape and other factors, but because of the weight that I have, you wouldn’t expect me to be as quick as I am. Just being able to be my size and move the way I’ve been moving these past couple months with those games and my season I think definitely helped with this whole process of getting me to be a Viking.
Q: Have teams set a target weight for you to hit?
A: I don’t think it’s a discussion that we’ve had. It’s not a discussion that we’ve had. I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Whatever they want me at. A lot of talk has been where I feel comfortable at, and I would say probably in the 320-330 range. But I’m also willing to lose some more weight if they would like me to. Whatever for the benefit of the team is honestly what I’m looking forward to doing. Just being able to get in and get that squared away will be good.
Q: With part of the Vikings staff coaching in the East-West Shrine Game, how much contact did you have with them that week?
A: I had a good amount of contact with them during that week. The assistant offensive line coach [Vikings Assistant OL Coach Andrew Janocko] was the offensive coordinator, so that also helped with this whole process because he liked me a lot. Down the line, saw them at the Combine and at the Senior Bowl, so just staying in constant contact with them ultimately led me to the Vikings.
Q: Did you play on both sides of the line at the Shrine Game or stay mostly on one side?
A: I played right guard and right tackle. Just the right side of the offensive line.
Q: Your sister is a pretty good basketball player at Wake Forest. What can you say about her?
A: She’s heading into her senior year. She started just about every single game since her sophomore year. They had a pretty rough year this past year, so she’s looking forward to getting back to work and figuring it out so she can leave next season on a good note with a pretty good record.
Q: What are your interests off the field?
A: I’m a pretty low-key guy, so I wouldn’t say I do anything too crazy. I like watching movies, like playing video games, just the casual things. I’m not really too much of a different activities outside [person]. I like to stay in and watch football, watch film or do something of the sorts instead of going out and doing activities.