After participating in seven games last fall during his first football season, defensive lineman David Ojabo secured nearly 40 scholarship offers across a six-month span. Now approaching his senior year at Blair Academy (Blairstown, N.J.), he understands the importance of maximizing an accelerated college recruitment.
Ojabo is a native of Nigeria who relocated to Aberdeen, Scotland, in 2007, and arrived at Blair in 2016 with basketball ambitions. He progressively has learned what to look for while engaging with dozens of Power 5 football coaching staffs.
“You’ve got to see through the lines,” he said. “Some coaches will tell you what you want to hear, some coaches will tell you the blunt reality, and then some are in the middle. Bottom line — you have to do your own research.”
Ojabo and his parents, Victor and Ngor, adopted a proactive approach researching options in June. They traveled to nine universities spanning thousands of miles with stops at Cal, Duke, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Syracuse, Texas A&M and Virginia. Aside from Notre Dame, each trip was an unofficial visit.
Offers have arrived at a steady pace since the conclusion of a junior campaign in which he secured 35 tackles and 6 sacks while sharing the Blair defensive line with Jayson Oweh, who enrolled at Penn State last week.
“Everything came fast,” Ojabo said. “It was very essential for me to go out on these trips and visit pretty much my top 9 schools that offer up the academics and football that both me and my family desire.”
A busy family itinerary enabled him to separate some programs from the pack. Ojabo revealed his top-5 list on Monday evening: Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Texas A&M. This announcement occurred only one week after he cut the process down to 15 schools.
“I’m not going to rush myself, but if I feel like I know which school might be home, why wait?” Ojabo said. “I felt like I found places that could be home for the next four or five years, so I decided to narrow down my list.”
During our discussion, Ojabo explored several dynamics of his recruitment. A common trend of the five favorites is they’ve delivered a sense of family during interactions. Aside from that aspect, here are some of his notable observations regarding each top option.
Michigan: “It had to be the sheer size of everything. Not many schools have facilities as big as theirs. Biggest stadium, a huge weight room. In the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t matter as much, but it stood out to me.”
Notre Dame: “That place is full of history — football history and Catholic history. It was cool to see the Golden Dome and the Jesus mural. I enjoyed being around [defensive line coach Mike] Elston and I went up to Coach [Brian] Kelly’s house — a big house. I went on a jet ski. It was good times, good vibes and everyone knows Notre Dame can set you up for life with an education.”
Ohio State: “Everything was top notch and of course Coach [Urban] Meyer has a national championship trophy in his office. That’s crazy to look at. It’s just surreal. You can’t become a national champion without great facilities and coaches.”
Penn State: “Instantly, before I even visited, I knew [Penn State] would be someplace special because of Jayson. Then I started connecting with Coach Spence [defensive line coach Sean Spencer], Coach Phil [special teams coordinator Phil Galiano] and of course Coach [James] Franklin. It’s taken off from there. Our relationship is strong.”
Texas A&M: “This one is kind of a different case. I actually have [an aunt] who lives in Houston and my host family is from there. They’re pretty close to A&M so it would be good to know I could look up into the stands and see family at my games.”
Given a few days to digest everything and shake off some travel weariness, Ojabo is now back in Scotland and focused on finishing his recruitment the right way. He isn’t yet prepared to set a specific commitment date.
“It’s up in the air but I spent at least a day or two at all of these schools so I have a good feel for them,” Ojabo said. “I’ve met the players, they have good academics, high-level football and they fit the criteria. Now it comes down to where would feel most like home, who can develop me best and how I fit on the roster.”
While some coaches have highlighted his athletic prowess above all else during conversations, Ojabo is searching for a complete package.
“Football may not last that long for all I know. Knock on wood, God forbid, I could blow out a knee during my first practice,” he said. “So what can a school do for me if that was to happen? And what can a school do for me after I’m done playing and get my degree?”
Ojabo prioritizes his pursuit of a business degree, and that’s been his mindset since the earliest stages of this recruitment.
“That’s the No. 1. If a school wasn’t top-tier in business, that just immediately ruled it out,” he said. “Of course, football is next. I mean, if I have all the schools [offering], why not play at the highest [level]? Next, it’s about fit. The players, the other recruits going to the school. A place I can call home, compete and feel comfortable.”
The presence of Oweh at Penn State could provide an advantage in this category.
“I’ve got some friends at other schools but none as close as Jayson,” Ojabo said. “It’s good that he’s taking this step so I can be in contact with him and find out how things go. Everything he’s accomplished in the past has helped me, because he’s done it first. So this will be another chance to learn from his experiences.”
He explained the Nittany Lions, like most of his suitors, envision him as a rush end. Ojabo, who stands approximately 6-foot-5, has added weight to surpass 240 pounds, and these measurements are reminiscent of his former teammate.
“That’s what everyone talks about — me and Jayson coming off the edge,” he said. “It would be a scary sight.”
As Oweh put it in April: “We would be the Nigerian Nightmare.”
Penn State has a realistic chance to put this duo in place but competition is significant, within the Big Ten and beyond.