Iowa prepares Ojemudia for NFL career

Michael Ojemudia learned from some of the best during his career at Iowa. Now, he hopes to take what he’s learned to the NFL.

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Katina Zentz

Iowa defensive back Michael Ojemudia prepares for a tackle during the football game against Illinois on Saturday, November 23, 2019.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

 


When Michael Ojemudia visited Iowa in high school, the Hawkeyes gave the best they had in terms of a tour host: Desmond King.

The same player who recorded 14 interceptions in his college career, including eight as a junior en route to winning the Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back.

Then, once he committed and joined the team, Ojemudia played with Josh Jackson, who picked off eight passes of his own as a junior in 2017 before entering the NFL Draft early.

What more could a young cornerback want in an alumni support system?

Now, Ojemudia hopes to hear his name called and become the next Hawkeye cornerback to make it to the next level.

“When you see someone in front of you that you’ve been with, that you know, that you’re friends with and see them make it, it gives you a little boost,” Ojemudia said. “I’ve been along guys that I’ve been in the same room with, and seeing them excel like that just gave me the motivation to excel.”

In a lot of ways, Ojemudia proved to be a perfect fit at Iowa.

Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz has built a culture full of grit, developing lightly-recruited high-school players into legitimate NFL prospects.

Defensive coordinator Phil Parker knows how to extract the best out of the players he places in the secondary.

RELATED: Former Hawkeye safety Geno Stone ‘ready’ to play in the NFL 

It all came together for Ojemudia in his final two seasons.

As a junior in 2018, Ojemudia recorded three interceptions and broke up six passes. In his final season in 2019, he picked off three more passes and posted nine pass break-ups, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors from the Associated Press.

Ojemudia made playing with toughness a priority each season. Being selected in the NFL Draft won’t change how important it is to him.

“That’s how I was raised,” Ojemudia said. “I went through high school with that mentality, and I just wanted to continue that through college. At the next level, that’s not going to change. I’m going to try to bring the same gritty intensity to any team that drafts me.”

When Ojemudia originally committed to Iowa, the NFL was always in the back of his mind. The Farmington Hills, Michigan, native took everything into account when picking a school — culture, atmosphere, education.

But during his junior and senior seasons, the NFL started becoming a reality.

Ojemudia’s time in college may have helped him adapt to this year’s NFL Draft process, which is different than any year before.

His meetings have been conducted through Zoom calls and FaceTime in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, but that has helped Ojemudia relax more.

Those interviews have been a part of Ojemudia’s final step.

Playing in the Senior Bowl helped Ojemudia get a feel for NFL practices and coaching. The NFL Combine allowed him to show his athleticism.

Now, it’s all about waiting.

“Something from the Senior Bowl and the Combine experience I noticed some guys aren’t as prepared for the NFL as Iowa has prepared me and my teammates,” Ojemudia said. “So, I definitely know that I’m a step ahead when I enter into the league.”

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