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March 12, 2011

Texans RB, Chris Ogbonnaya Interview

by Max Strauss
75 CO

Chris Ogbonnaya played college football at Texas. He was an Academic All-American during his senior year (2008). He entered the 2009 NFL Draft, and was drafted in the 7th round by the St. Louis Rams. He then signed with the Texans’ practice squad in 2010. Check out the interview that was conducted before the 2011 NFL season. [Update: He was promoted and signed to the Cleveland Browns active roster in 2011. He earned his first start this past year too.]

Download the AUDIO with Chris Ogbonnaya click here.
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Announcement : My name is Max Strauss with http://prointerviews.org/, http://facebook.com/ProInterviews/ and http://twitter.com/ProInterviews/. I’d like to welcome you to the interview with Chris Ogbonnaya. Ogbonnaya attended the University of Texas from 2004 through 2008.He finished his collegiate career as an Academic All-American. He then entered the NFL Draft in 2009, and was drafted in the seventh round, 211th overall by the St. Louis Rams. He earned playing time in the last two weeks of the season and remained on their roster until the final cuts of the 2010 preseason. He was quickly signed by the Houston Texans and was placed on the practice squad for the season. Here is the interview with Chris “Obie Wan Kenobi” Ogbonnaya and I hope you enjoy the collages also.

Strauss : How do you connect with your the fans?

Ogbonnaya : The best way for me to connect with my fans either through, what I would say, are appearances at charity events. Even things like social media… On twitter or on Facebook, and I’m pretty open on those things, if you ask me a question… I would say ninety-five percent of the time, I’m going to answer them. Anything that catches my attention, that I feel I need to comment about, that’s what I do. I think it’s a cool medium I would say. I think a lot of times fans are looking at professional athletes or any type of celebrities, and can’t really find a way to connect. I think [social media] is the best way to connect.

Strauss : If you weren’t playing in the NFL right now, what would you want to do?

Ogbonnaya : I would probably either go to law school. I went to University of Texas, and I’m very close with the president of our school, his name is Bill Powers. He used to be the Dean of the Law School, and we always talked about doing that. I also studied corporate communications in college and found that a large interest in media. I thought that was always cool. Maybe like a radio personality, and anything involved with sports because I’m a fan, not just football, I follow everything, basketball, track and field, golf, nascar… I’m a fan, just like any other american in this country and I do enjoy it. That’s what I would be doing, some sort of sports broadcasting or law school.

Strauss : If you could meet anyone, who would it be and why?

Ogbonnaya : That’s a good question. I think that would probably meet, and go two-fold, and say Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. I say those two because those are the first I could think off of the top of my head. But, I’ve gone through a lot of stuff in my life, and as those guys did, they dealt with a lot of adversity I would say. They showed great perseverance in ways of civil disobedience. While I haven’t gone through anything on that level, I think that I can compare or that I have situations that somewhat correlate to them. In addition to that, they are both great ambassadors and the kind of people that stood for something great, not just in this country, but internationally. Also, when I was growing up and was reading about them, it was always very interesting to me.

Strauss : How has what you have gone through helped you become a better and stronger person in whole?

Ogbonnaya : I guess when I was about fifteen to sixteen years old, I lost both  of my brothers about three months apart in separate incidents. One was killed in a motor vehicle accident by a drunk driver and the other one passed away from congenital heart failure. Those are just two things that rocked our family a little bit, but we’re very close. Football was always an escape for me. I would say it was a gateway, allowed me to relax a little bit, and grieve a little easier. When I was recruited to the Texas, Mack Brown was really one of the first people that told me, “These guys will be your new brothers, this will be your new family. Rely on us.” It’s something that holds truth. It helped me mentally and I became very close and built some close relationships with the guys that I played with in college and we’re very close to this day.

Strauss : What was your high school football experience like?

Ogbonnaya : It was amazing man! I first started playing when I got to high school, and I went to a private school. We were at the time, we were independent, we weren’t part of a district or league. We were just playing anybody. I lost a couple times in high school. We had a very successful run when I was there. I built some great relationships. It was just a good time. It allowed me to, not just grow as a football player, but as a man, because that’s one of the things that the school I went to instills in individuals. Just it was a great experience.

Strauss : You played wide receiver in high school, and then you switched to running back after the spring of freshman year.

Ogbonnaya : That’s what it was. Actually, what happened was, I got to UT as a receiver and I red-shirted that first year. They told me that one week when I was playing scout team, they told me they wanted me to be the scout team running back. We’re playing Colorado that week, and they had two good running backs and so, I moved there, and it was kind of a natural feel there, so they approached me in the spring to do it. It was great. I didn’t play as much running back in the National Championship year, more-so Special Teams, but it was definitely a good fit because of what I did in high school. I played a little quarterback here and there too, so I always the game from a different perspective. Even though, I did get end up playing both receiver positions, but it helped me catch the ball, be a split-out, and do different things. A lot of things both collegiately and professionally.

Strauss : You mentioned in there, that your freshman year you were a BCS Champion? What was that like, and can you take me through, maybe, some highlights of the season?

Ogbonnaya : It was crazy! I went to Texas, and my first year, my redshirt year, we won the Rose Bowl against Michigan. Then, the next year, we got to the National Championship. I remember the 2nd game of the season we went to Ohio State. I remember that it was a close game. I remember after that game, we sat on the back of the bus, like a select group of us, and we were all saying… I forgot who was said it, I think it was Vince [Young] or Kasey Studdard, it was one of those guys. It was just, look at what you’ve done, we have the ability to run the table. This was after the second game. We don’t know what we were going to go through, we were just college guys. We had that one goal.

Even as a freshman, I looked at these guys, and I felt it, I believed in it. We were a very tight-knit group. The rest was history. We played in a great game against Southern Cal. They had great athletes. But, it was just an incredible experience, week in and week out. There was a huge target on your back, even though we weren’t the number one ranked team, we played with a chip on our shoulder. Everybody told us that we were going to fizzle out, everybody told us that we would not be able to get it done. We played very well down the stretch and were able to get it done.

Strauss : At Texas, you were the, “Team Nerd,” Four Time 1st-Team Academic All-Big 12 Honoree, and you were a semifinalist for the Draddy Trophy [Senior Year in 2008]. What goes through your mind on why you make academics so important in relationship to playing football at Texas?

Ogbonnaya : I would say that, that was always instilled me at a young age. My dad came from Nigeria in 1976. He was sponsored to come here. Back then, he basically had to win a lottery to be able to come to the States from Nigeria. He was able to do that. He was able to graduate from college in two years, and finish medical school shortly after that. And so, I always told myself that if it’s possible, I hope to do all of this by myself. I needed to be able to do it since I had all the resources in front of me. I went a great high school, and honored enough to go to a great college.

I didn’t always know that football would be there for me professionally. While I played at school, I didn’t really have a great year or a notable year until my senior year that I would say that stood out. My academic promise was always first. I always knew that if I don’t have football I would definitely have what I learned in college in all different things. I double-majored. I remember that when I first got to UT [University of Texas], when you get there, we go through our field house which is called Moncrief-Neuhaus, on the left, when you walk down the hallway, it has all the All-Americans. So, all your All-Americans are on the left side, and all the Academic All-Americans are on your right. When I first got to UT, I never saw any African American faces on the academic on the Academic All-American wall. When I first got there, my goal was to be the first guy to do that. And, my senior year I was named to ESPN’s Academic All-American. So, I was the first African American football player to be named Academic All-American in the history of the University of Texas. That is something I have a lot of pride in and it took me a long way, and something I am very excited about that it will always be there.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite memory from Texas?

Ogbonnaya : Well, obviously winning the Championship Game, running on that field after we won, was a great feeling. I would also say that we played Oklahoma and they were ranked number one in the country at the time, and we were down eleven points on two separate occasions. We came back and ended up winning 45 to 35 in Dallas. A great moment was sealing the victory. I took a run play about sixty five or seventy yards. It kind of cemented the game. We ended up winning. I thought it was a touchdown, but Coach Brown always tells me, I gave him a hard time about it last time I saw him a few weeks back, well we wanted to run the clock out, more so then challenge it. When I dove, I broke the pylon, but it was a great victory. I only lost to them once and they are one of our closest rivals. I would say that would be my greatest moment, besides the National Championship.

Strauss : What was your draft day experience like?

Ogbonnaya : I just had my family around. It was just one of those things hoping and preparing for anything. I didn’t know if I would be drafted. I heard so many different things. I heard anywhere from the 3rd or 4th round to undrafted. I had teams calling me in the 3rd and 4th round, and I didn’t know what to expect. Luckily enough, I did get a call and I was lucky enough to get drafted. That was always cemented. You can always look it up on the internet. That’ll be something I’ll be excited for my kids to look at.

Strauss : Do you have a favorite memory with the Rams?

Ogbonnaya :  I would say, more-so off the field. We weren’t lucky enough to win a lot of games that year in St. Louis. A lot of great things did happen. We played a lot of great teams, and it was very close. It was a great experience. I would say off the field, two of my closest friends, Steven Jackson and Mike Carney, [We’re still very close even though, I’m playing for the Texans now]. They took really good care of me being the young guy in the room. We still have carried that relationship on as I said.

Strauss : After that season with the Rams, you basically returned back to Texas…

Ogbonnaya : I did. Playing for the Texans now… It was bitter-sweet, because  my time in St. Louis was cut a little shorter than I wanted it to be. That’s the nature of the business. I always had a great deal of respect for those coaches and develop good friendships with the guys there. I was glad to see they did well. But, the opportunity to come home was great. We didn’t have the year that we wanted to have, in terms of not making the playoffs, but just to be able to play with guys in the room with Vonta Leach, and Arian [Foster] who were both Pro Bowlers. Then, Andre Johnson, also, it’s a great compliment to the city of Houston, and to the team, just to be here and be home. When you have great guys, we also lost a lot of guys too. Our captain got hurt, DeMeco Ryans is a great guy and a great player. I’m looking forward to this next season here in Houston, and hope to capitalize on what we did last year.

Strauss : Do you have a nickname?

Ogbonnaya : I have too many nicknames. They call me all kinds of stuff. They call me, “Obie”, “Obie Wan”, “Obie Wan Kenobi”. All kinds of nonsense. It just depends on the guy, I just respond to whatever.

Strauss : Do you have a foundation or charity that you support a lot?

Ogbonnaya : I would say that Habitat for Humanity or Boys and Girls Clubs are the ones I support the most. I would say Habitat for Humanity because I’ve been doing that since I was a young kid growing up here in Houston. The Boys and Girls club is something that has kind of grown on me, my rookie year in the NFL. It was a great foundation and a great thing for children that are less fortunate, and don’t have the opportunities that some other kids have. Being able to do things with them and events with them is pretty cool.

Strauss : If you could describe yourself as any ice cream flavor, what would you be and why?

Ogbonnaya : Haha! What! Any ice cream flavor… okay! Okay… That’s a good one. We have this… I don’t know man… I would say… Any ice cream flavor… I’m going to have to go trifold with this one. I would say Cookies N’ Cream, Butter Pecan, or Rocky Road. I would say the first two because they are my two favorite ice cream flavors, Cookies N’ Cream and Butter Pecan. Then, I would say that I’ve never really had Rocky Road, but I would say it because of it’s name, for obvious reasons, just the adversity that I’ve been through and how I keep rising above it.

Strauss : For someone who wants to play in the NFL, what’s the best advice you can give them?

Ogbonnaya : Just work. Just dedicate yourself. Just go the extra step. Do what other guys are not willing to do. Make sure you’re doing something. I guess I would say, it’s kind of like your character and your integrity. When other people are not looking, what are you doing? I would say everybody is talented in our league, it’s the guys that take the extra step, and do the extra work that separate themselves and are better.

Strauss : Is there anything you want to tell your fans that we haven’t really talked about or touched on?

Ogbonnaya : I don’t know. I guess I would say… To the fans, I appreciate the support over the last couple years. It’s been great going to UT. Obviously, that’s a huge fan base and great, great people there. I’ve met a lot of great people and been with a lot of great people. I guess I’m one of those guys that when a fan comes around, I don’t get annoyed. To have that kind of support, it’s greatly appreciated. Just to say thank you, it means a lot to me personally, and hopefully we can keep this train moving.

Strauss : Thank you so much for your time!

Ogbonnaya : No problem, thank you for the interview man!

Announcement : Thank you for listening to the interview with Chris Ogbonnaya. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope you leave your comments below as well! Please check out my website http://prointerviews.org/ for other interviews, “LIKE” the Facebook page at http://facebook.com/ProInterviews/, and follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/ProInterviews/. Please subscribe to me on YouTube at http://youtube.com/ProInterviews/ Thanks again for listening! Stay tuned for more, and feel free to contact me!

->Here are the personal questions that Ogbonnaya answered.<-

Strauss : How do you pronounce your name?

Ogbonnaya : Ogbonnaya, The “G” is silent.

Strauss : Do you know where it’s from?

Ogbonnaya : It’s of Nigerian descent. It’s the Igbo tribe and part of their dialect. My dad is from the Ututu village.

Strauss : How many NCAA BCS Rings do you have?

Ogbonnaya : I have three of them. I have a ring from my red-shirt year, my red-shirt freshmen year, and my red-shirt senior year.

Strauss : Thank you so much!

Ogbonnaya : No problem man. I appreciate it.

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