Ifeadi Odenigbo learned the big news — the Minnesota Vikings planned to draft him in the seventh round — while stuck in Chicago traffic with two friends.
That was not the plan. The Centerville High School and Northwestern University graduate figured if he was going to be drafted, it would be in the final four rounds Saturday, so he began the day watching the draft with his parents, Linda and Thomas, and friends at a friend’s house in Chicago.
Odenigbo, a 6-foot-3, 258-pound defensive end, hoped to hear his name called as early as the fifth round. When that didn’t happen, he started to stress. He said he stormed out of the house with his friends and told them to take him anywhere.
“Where are you going?” his mom asked.
“I can’t do this anymore,” he told her.
“The draft’s still going on,” she said.
“I don’t want to watch it,” he said.
Twenty minutes later, as his friends drove him around, Odenigbo got the call from Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson, who told him, “I was fighting for you. We want to draft you. We want you to become a Viking.”
Odenigbo was the second pick of the seventh round and the 220th pick overall. He called his mom when the Vikings gave him the news. Then the group still at the house watched as his name was called at the draft in Philadelphia.
Four days later, Odenigbo relived the experience before a workout at Fast Twitch Sports Performance, a facility near the Dayton Mall where he has been preparing with Andrew Winkler, a strength and conditioning specialist. This was Odenigbo’s last workout before he heads to Minnesota. He flies to Minneapolis on Thursday and starts Vikings rookie minicamp Friday. He also spent time earlier in the week visiting kids and teachers at all his former schools in Dayton.
Even with some time to think about his NFL Draft dream coming true, it was still surreal.
“All the hard work I did at Northwestern,” Odenigbo said, “all the hard work I did at Centerville, all the hard work at Fast Twitch, it was all coming together. I can’t be content right now. Even though I got drafted, that doesn’t mean I’m on that team.”
Odenigbo earned first-team Big Ten honors from the conference’s coaches and second-team honors from the media in 2016. He led the Big Ten with 10 sacks. He finished his Northwestern career with 23 ½ sacks, ranking second in school history.
Odenigbo is the latest in a long line of Centerville graduates to be drafted. One of those was his former Centerville teammate Michael Bennett, the Ohio State defensive lineman who was selected in the sixth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015.
Bennett gave Odenigbo advice on how to deal with draft week.
“Don’t look at the websites,” Bennett said. “They don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re not the coaches. They’re not the GMs.”
Bennett also told Odenigbo not to watch the draft. He finally took that advice after the fifth round. After that, it was just a matter of finding a Vikings hat. He bought one at the Dayton Mall when he got home. The man at the counter recognized Odenigbo.
“Didn’t you just get drafted the Vikings?” he asked. “It’s funny you have to buy a hat, isn’t it?”