Charlotte DT Larry Ogunjobi hoping to become programs first NFL Draft pick

Redshirt senior enrolled at Charlotte thinking about med school, but is now pursuing an NFL career

Larry Ogunjobi spent his first year playing football struggling to even line up in a three-point stance. The redshirt senior defensive tackle for Charlotte remembers having to play nose guard standing up as a sophomore on Jamestown Ragsdale’s JV team. He weighed 350 pounds but said he lacked the upper body strength to balance his weight with a hand in the dirt.His body — and his game — have come a remarkably long way since. So far, in fact, that he’s had to change his plans for his future. Ogunjobi came to Charlotte in 2012 with big aspirations off the field. His goal was to double major in computer science and biology, then attend medical school following graduation. He said he’s wanted to go into medicine since the death of his grandfather in 2007.Ogunjobi has excelled in the classroom, making the Dean’s List (3.4 GPA or higher) and Athletic Director’s List (3.0 GPA or higher) on several occasions. But as the demands of both football and his pre-med classes ramped up — and it became clear he had a future on the gridiron — he decided to delay his dream of becoming a doctor. He will graduate with a degree in computer science in December. Whenever his playing days are over, Ogunjobi said he will retake a few of his pre-med classes “to turn some of those B’s into A’s,” and then apply to med school. For now, the 6-foot-3, 300-pounder is intent on becoming the first 49er to play on Sundays. Earlier in November, Ogunjobi accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, where he will have an opportunity to impress NFL scouts. His place on a roster full of the sport’s top upperclassmen was just the latest — and most significant honor — of his career. Prior to this season, he was named to the Bednarik Award Watch List for college football’s top defensive player, as well as the Outland Trophy Watch List for the top interior lineman. “If you had told me that [before the season], I would have probably looked at you like, ‘What?'” he said. “To be honest, I didn’t know what those things were. I didn’t know what watch lists were. I went to the Nagurski Banquet last year at the [Charlotte] Touchdown Club and I saw how that worked, but I didn’t know there were that many awards being offered. It was a shock to me because I got on two watch lists back-to-back. I was kinda like, ‘Oh, wow.'” His defensive line coach is Aaron Curry, a former standout linebacker at Wake Forest whose position coach in college was Brad Lambert, the current head coach of the 49ers. Curry has overseen Charlotte’s D-line since January 2015, and has been with the program since Lambert hired him as a strength and conditioning intern during the 49ers’ inaugural season in 2013. The No. 4 overall pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2009 recalled Ogunjobi making a memorable first impression.”About two years ago, I knew that he would have the opportunity to play in the NFL,” Curry said. “I feel like he’s always possessed the athletic characteristics that it takes to play at the next level. He’s extremely athletic for his size. He has a tremendous first step. He plays with great power.” With one game left this year, Ogunjobi has already piled up 60 tackles and 13 tackles for loss, and will be in line for several Conference-USA accolades when those are announced. It’s the second year in a row he’s been among the 49ers’ top tacklers, as he finished 2015 with 62 tackles and 14.5 TFLs, the second-most in the conference. Curry understands as well as anyone how impressive it is for a player Ogunjubi’s size to find the football that well.”It’s very rare,” Curry said. “For a guy that’s going to see two blocks every snap, to have the production that he’s having, it’s awesome for our defense. It’s just a testament to his will, his want-to and his desire to get to the football.” Ogunjobi knows how fortunate he has been to work under a coach with the former Seahawk’s pedigree. He looks to Curry, though, for much more than the best way to shed a block or diagnose a certain scheme.”He’s more of a big brother than a coach,” Ogunjobi said. “The biggest place where he helped me wasn’t being a football player, it was being a man, and understanding that there’s areas where I needed to grow. He challenged me, he made me better.”Ogunjobi has been in the limelight much less than most of the players who will suit up in the Senior Bowl on January 28. After just two years in C-USA — Charlotte was an independent Football Championship Subdivision program in 2013 and 2014 — his trip to Mobile, Ala., will mean a chance to compete with some of the nation’s top linemen.At his height and weight, Charlotte’s career leader in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks can drastically improve his draft stock with an impressive showing.”I do think he’ll do some things that are going to be attractive to NFL coaches and GMs,” Curry said. “It will be a great experience for him to go practice all week long against guys that maybe he’s never played against before, to show that he can play with the big boys, per se, and he can play with anybody.”Ogunjobi has talked throughout his senior season about the legacy he and the rest of Charlotte’s 19-man first senior class want to leave. He spoke at length after a last-second homecoming loss to Florida International about how tough it was to finish his career 0-4 in homecoming games. Regardless of what happens this offseason, Ogunjobi, a member of the 49ers first ever recruiting class, will be remembered as a key player in the history of Charlotte football. He can think of no better final milestone for himself and the program than becoming the first Charlotte player drafted when NFL teams make their picks in late April. “I try to just take it one day at a time, because nothing is promised,” Ogunjobi said. “It would be big for our school, I’ll tell you that much. It would be huge. Because then people would understand that coming here isn’t the end-all be-all. That’s all I want people to understand: it doesn’t matter where you go. It’s what you do there. If you believe in yourself enough, you’ll look up one day and you’ll be in the same position as me.”