CINCINNATI -- Larry Ogunjobi holds tight to the reminder of what hard work can accomplish. The new Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle learned that lesson back in high school when he went from sitting around, massively overweight and playing video games all the time to making a drastic transformation on the football field.
Years later, Ogunjobi still finds motivation in his past. He’s hoping to put in the work during Organized Team Activities and the rest of the offseason, so it pays off for the Bengals’ defense this season.
Ogunjobi is preparing for his first season in Cincinnati after playing four years with the rival Browns.
“It (the past) reminds me every day when I come in that you’ve just got to work,” Ogunjobi said. “Nobody is going to give you anything, nobody is going to give you respect, nobody is going to give you a chance. You have to go out there and you have to earn it, you have to take it. Being here is an opportunity for a fresh start, to continue to do what I love with a new team, a new opportunity, a new slate.” ”
Ogunjobi has come a long way in a short time since starting football as a sophomore at Ragsdale High School in Jamestown, N.C.
His parents were concerned about his weight, checking in at 350 pounds that summer, and his mom took away the X-Box and found him a coach to privately train him. After about a month, that coach, Robert Mitchell, drove him to the high school and told him he was going to play football. Ogunjobi refused, but his mom signed the permission slip Mitchell brought her and he was on the field that Saturday with the team.
“I couldn’t go through the workouts, couldn’t really do anything the first day,” Ogunjobi said. “Coaches came up to me the next day. They said, ‘Larry, we just want to make sure you’re still here.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m still here.’ But in my head, it was like only because I had to be. That wasn’t what I wanted to do at first.”
Ogunjobi made it through the season on the junior varsity team and was surprised when his name was called at the award banquet, recognizing him as the most improved player. That proved to be the turning point for him.
Credit: Ron Schwane
Credit: Ron Schwane
Now, he thanks his family by taking care of them.
“That was the first time in my life where I felt like I earned something I worked for,” Ogunjobi said. “I just kind of realized football was something I could do. So I asked my coach what I had to do. He said, ‘You’ve got to get faster, you’ve got to get stronger, you’ve got to perfect your technique.’
“So like every day after practice, I would go to the YMCA and I would start out, ran like half a mile and biking five miles. Then I would run a mile, bike 10 miles. Then it finally got to where I could run two miles without stopping, bike 15 miles, and my body composition started changing, so I went from 350 the summer of my sophomore year to 247 the summer of my junior year.”
After adding some bulk, he weighed 262 pounds his junior season and was named all-conference. Senior year, he weighed 267 and was all-conference and an East-West All-Star, had five scholarship offers Furman, Howard, Charlotte, Presbyterian and Catawba.
With one official visit to Charlotte, Ogunjobi “fell in love with it.”
“I was the first player ever drafted from my college, I was with the Browns four years and now I’m a Cincinnati Bengal, so I’ve been blessed throughout my journey,” he said. “I’m excited for what the future holds and excited to be with this team. I’m excited for what we can do. So right now the biggest thing is just putting in the work right now and developing that chemistry and camaraderie to take care of business on Sunday.”
In some ways, Ogunjobi has come full circle in joining the Bengals. He’s back to playing the three-technique spot on the defensive line for the first time since high school – a position he feels is his most natural fit and allows him to do what he does “best” – and he will be working alongside a familiar face from the old days, as well.
D.J. Reader went to Grimsley High School, in the same county as Ogunjobi, and the two knew each other from their one-on-one battles. Reader played some offensive line then and fullback, and Ogunjobi says he “got him” every time. Now he looks forward to playing next to him.
“I’m not going to put any limit on it,” Ogunjobi said. “I just want to go out there and work, make plays. D.J.’s season got cut short last year, but he’s healthy now, he’s looking good. I’m just here to make plays, so I’m excited what we can do and we’re just going to come out there and work.”
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