Miami’s Ojomo says missing ’09 made him better
Adewale Ojomo leaned back in his seat and smiled.
Silly as it sounds, that represents progress for the Miami
defensive lineman. Such a gesture was impossible for him a year
Ojomo missed Miami’s entire 2009 season after a locker-room
fight before the season left him with a broken jaw that needed to
be wired shut for nearly two months. He lost 40 pounds during that
ordeal, unable to regain the size and strength in time to get back
on the field with the Hurricanes.
So when Miami opens this season against Florida A&M on Sept.
2, more than 20 months will have passed since Ojomo played.
”I wouldn’t call it anger. I would call it motivation,” said
Ojomo, who grew up in the Miami suburb of Hialeah. ”I work harder
than ever now and am more determined. I look at things totally
different. Sometimes in life, you take things for granted. I don’t
take anything for granted. Not one practice, not one weight-room
lift, because I don’t have to be there.”
That’s a lesson he learned the hard way.
Miami coach Randy Shannon originally said Ojomo got hurt
”horsing around in the locker room with a couple players” last
Aug. 16, before it was learned that he was involved in a fight with
a walk-on candidate whom the team never identified since that
person was not on the roster. The walk-on was quickly dismissed
from his tryout.
A day later after the initial diagnosis, the team announced
Ojomo had surgery, and an indefinite absence turned into a
Now he’s back, and Ojomo – who still will not talk about the
specifics of the fight – insists he’s better than ever.
”Ojomo’s just ready to go,” Shannon said this week. ”He’s
been here. Excited about coming back. He’s going to bring some
excitement and he’s grown a lot, mentally and physically.”
The Ojomo situation from a year ago is similar to one that
popped up in recent days at Southern California. USC cornerback
T.J. Bryant had surgery on his left cheekbone Thursday, about a
week after fighting teammate Stanley Havili. Bryant will miss at
least three weeks.
”It’s something we’re not excited about right now,” USC coach
Lane Kiffin said.
That matches the sentiment Miami had over the Ojomo matter this
time last summer.
As a redshirt freshman in 2008, Ojomo showed signs of serious
Ojomo started three games for Miami that season, with 22 tackles
and three sacks, enough to get those around the program to believe
that he would be a major contributor in 2009.
They say the same now, even while the defensive line is expected
to be a major strength for Miami this season.
”He’s a terror,” fellow defensive lineman Allen Bailey said.
”He adds a lot to the D-line. We’re already stacked. He adds a lot
more to it. Him being there, adds to the pass rush, adds just
another aggressive player. A playmaker.”
It’s telling that Shannon never lost faith in – or respect for –
Ojomo in the days and weeks after the fight.
Shannon speaks often of his disdain for distractions, and one of
his most cherished philosophies as a head coach is allowing players
to police their own locker room. Even after the Ojomo incident,
that didn’t change, and Shannon has said in recent weeks he
believes the 6-foot-4, 260-pound junior could be a
”game-changing” player for Miami this season.
”It’s very encouraging,” Ojomo said. ”It lifts my spirit a
lot to know that my head coach believes in me. I can’t take it and
get complacent. I’ve got to just take it and keep working
If there was a silver lining to missing a season, Ojomo says
it’s that all the little nagging aches and pains football players
tend to deal with have gone away.
He became more of a student of the game than ever before,
getting a new perspective from the sideline as he kept eyes locked
in on Bailey and Andrew Smith, the two guys who spent much of the
year in the spot Ojomo thought he’d have in 2009. He watched as
much film as he could collect, all those mental reps in practice
making his mind – and, presumably, his game – sharper.
”It’s the same situation as Aaron Rodgers watching Brett Favre
and being able to learn from that experience he had,” Ojomo said,
making a parallel to when Rodgers was Green Bay’s
quarterback-in-waiting behind Favre. ”It’s pretty much the same
situation … watching the good and the bad. You stay fresh. I must
say, your legs are lighter. You feel much better.”
And that’s when the smile came out. Progress.
”I think I’ve gotten better,” Ojomo said.