It’s 7:15 a.m. in Houston, but mid-morning for Texans defensive end Adedayo Odeleye as he sits down, proudly sporting team apparel, to chat with Sky Sports after being awake for more two hours.
The former Loughborough student admits that dawn climbs prove much easier at the start of an NFL day than shuffling to a college conference on time. The latter is a thing of the past, though without it he might not be sitting here.
He also admits he goes to bed much earlier as an NFL player than he would have as a student, so there you have it.
Odeleye is just weeks into his NFL career after it was announced he would be assigned to the Texans as a product of the International Player Pathway, including University graduate Ayo Oyelola of Nottingham, also earned a spot with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here featuring the last British ambassadors striving to emulate Efe Obada.
“I was in my kitchen with my mum and brother when I found out, I had a call scheduled with the IPP scouts, I was happy where I was but who knows. never until we get the news,” he said. Sky sports.
“I was both excited and anxious to start and was literally ready to fly the same day, but I had to wait about a week, it was hard to focus on anything else during that week , for sure.
“When the news was posted on social media, I had to put my phone on do not disturb mode for about 24 hours because it kept exploding. This is part of the game that I am also excited to participate in.
“The fans are a very important aspect of the sport and that’s one of the goals of the program, it’s not just to have athletes in the league but also to grow the brand around the world and try to bring more UK and Nigerian fans to watch and play the sport. . Whatever part I can do to make that happen, I’ll be happy to do it.
Now, Odeleye’s story is no longer a secret: Born in Nigeria, spent time in Saudi Arabia, moved to the UK with his family at the age of nine before finally enrolling at Loughborough where he started playing football on the recommendation of the captain of the varsity team who had been struck by his dwarf frame.
Familiarity with such stems from Odeleye and Oyelola both having been part of the formation phase of the 2021 International Player Pathway, only for neither to be assigned to a roster.
Odeleye then spent last season gaining experience with the Berlin Thunder in the European Football League, before returning to claim his position at the International Scouting Combine held at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in October. This time he was ready.
“I had very positive feedback from the lads and the scouts the first time around, I knew that playing at a high level of football was something that I absolutely had to do, that’s why I went to the European League to try to improve myself,” he said.
“Also off the pitch, in the gym, I was really very focused, I kind of changed my whole indoor training regimen to become a bit more functional, to be more comfortable and to move my body more efficiently. Of course, it pays off.
“I was very disappointed not to participate in the program last year, but it was understandable for them to say that I probably needed another year to try to improve in different aspects. I think I definitely did. »
“When young children ask how they can replicate my journey, I would say you can only put yourself in the best position possible. Anything beyond that escapes you, there are so many people that without them I wouldn’t be where I am right now. But the important thing is that when they came for me, I got to show my best foot and be the best version of myself I could be.
Odeleye is preparing for the NFL
Meanwhile, rookie mini-camp introduced him to the challenge of competing with some of the finest and most imposing athletes on the planet.
“It’s been pretty much as I expected, I came here expecting top-level, high-intensity football, and very close attention to detail, that’s exactly what I expected. “, did he declare.
“Everyone is physically a few steps higher than what I’m used to, but that’s also what I expected.
“As far as Xs and Os go, it’s really not something I’ve ever struggled with. I’m a very big fan of the sport the way I watch football is a bit different I watch on Sunday then during the week I review the games and break down what’s going on behind the scenes and why the players are doing what what they do, what the coaches ask the players to do.
“It really helped me to deepen my knowledge of football and to integrate myself more easily into the team. »
He studies the league’s Aaron Donalds, and why not? He admires Joey and Nick Bosa and their cocktail rush shots, because who wouldn’t?
“There are very, very few Aaron Donalds, but obviously if you watch his game there are things you can replicate and it will definitely improve your game. I like watching the Bosa brothers just because they use their power and speed to try to move. tackling is something that I feel like in the future will be part of my game as well.”
Dayo Odeleye on the players he likes to watch
He’s not naïve to look past the myriad of learning resources, but he also wants to be his own player, his own defensive end.
That being a hand-in-the-dirt agent with a first-step burst and long arms with which to swim and fight his way to tackles and quarterback pressure.
“I’m definitely in three points, that’s what the team is asking me to do,” he explained. “I played four points before, I also played two points last year. But two dots is definitely something I’m comfortable with too, that’s how you get the fastest start.
“I’m a physical player, long arms, that’s definitely something I’m going to build my game around.
“Moving into the future, I feel like (playing indoors) is something I could potentially do. My body composition, moving down the line is something I could definitely do. »
Odeleye’s development will likely see him get acquainted with Laremy Tunsil as he takes on the two-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle directly on the training ground this summer.
Even at 6’5″ and 265 pounds, Odeleye, perhaps for the first time, finds himself out of shape.
“He’s a big guy, I like to think I’m pretty big myself but he’s a mountain of human,” he laughs. “Especially at camp, when you put pads on, it’s a challenge that I love.
“The best way to improve your skills is to try to compete against the best and we all know he is one of the best.
“Going against someone with that experience, that skill, can only do me and the whole d-line good. »
His arrival coincides with a new phase for the Texans following the promotion of Lovie Smith to head coach following the departure of David Culley after a 4-13 campaign.
“He’s great, you can definitely see the type of philosophy and mindset that he’s trying to infuse into the team and that’s something I feel, given the opportunity, the team going to get on the court and play with it,” he said of Forgeron.
“He likes playmakers, trying to get the ball back from the attack. The defence, especially at the back, we have playmakers.
“It’s going to be a very fun year to see exactly how it works. »
Some have a coveted opponent, others dream of playing in a specific stadium.
For Odeleye, he “would just be happy to be on the pitch”.
Stay tuned to skysports.com/nfl for the latest news, features and interviews as we prepare for the 2022 NFL season; you can also listen to Neil Reynolds and Jeff Reinebold on the Inside the Huddle podcast and watch Good Morning Football and Pro Football Talk on select Sky Sports TV channels.