“You don’t stay hungry by sleeping in silk sheets.”
This sentence defined in two words would be: complacency kills. Former NDSU running back Sam Ojuri is one of many hopefuls who are looking to hear their name called on the second weekend of May and Ojuri is anything but complacent.
Growing up an hour outside of Chicago in Barrington, Ill., Ojuri has wanted to be a professional athlete long before fans heard his name. Ojuri and his family moved out of the rough streets of Chicago when he was about four years old and he bounced around until the eighth grade. That was when he was put into the Barrington school system.
Ojuri says that moving to Barrington “was the best move my parents could have done for me. That put me in a great position to excel as a student and an athlete.”
Ojuri is looking to get drafted as a running back; however, he did not start carrying the rock until his sophomore year in high school.
“My junior year, they tried me out as a receiver but I never really got the ball, so whenever I did get an opportunity, I knew I had to take it to the house,” Ojuri said. “I think I averaged 11 yards a carry when they finally moved me back to running back halfway through the year. I guess I was a late bloomer.”
After great junior and senior years, Ojuri took a scholarship at NDSU where he had an illustrious career. Ojuri was a key cog in a team that won three straight FCS national championships from 2011-2013. He ran for 1,000 yards in each of the championship seasons, despite never receiving 24 carries more than the second-featured back in NDSU’s two-back system. He finished fourth in career rushing yards in NDSU history.
Looking at his credentials, he should be considered as a high draft pick. However, because of playing in an FCS system and splitting carries, Ojuri is an underdog heading into the draft. Don’t fear though, because he loves it. He embraces it.
“I’m in the process of making a name for myself… but my numbers are right up there with (other collegiate running back prospects,)” Ojuri said. “Chasing my lifelong dream ever since I was nine or 10, I’ve always envisioned this in my mind and achieving these goals is my biggest motivation, so I’ll be the underdog… I always gotta stay hungry.”
After winning his third straight FCS championship, Ojuri left the flat lands and high winds of Fargo to head to the beautiful snowcapped mountains of Denver to train for the upcoming NFL Draft. He trained for eight straight weeks, working six or more hours a day, going four days a week. Ojuri trained as hard as he did because he knows he has to separate himself from other backs and distinguish himself heading into the draft.
“Everyone can make plays, but I can make plays in different ways,” he said. “I can make plays in special teams, I can run, catch the ball and I can block for the quarterback. I am a three down back.”
Most athletes cannot wait to get their first paycheck, but Ojuri cannot wait to get his 20th.
“I’m not really into the first check, I’m thinking about working hard to get that second contract,” Ojuri said. “Down the road with that money, I want to open up a rec center and a Sickle Cell foundation. Kids need that role model and place to get better at what they like. Having someone to look up to, that’s big.”
As for sickle cell, “My sister has sickle cell. That’s a plan of mine to get a foundation so they know that there is support.”