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  1. #1
    RockinRam's Avatar
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    Onobun's Development Underway

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer


    Only moments after selecting tight end Fendi Onobun with the first pick of the sixth round last weekend, Rams general manager Billy Devaney was at his usual, straightforward best.
    “We’re taking a flier, guys,” Devaney said after making the pick. “We know that. It’s a project in its truest sense.”
    To take on a project such as Onobun, though, there has to be a good reason and with the super-athletic former basketball player, the Rams have seen plenty.
    “The biggest thing is I am so new to this game, it’s like I am a piece of clay and they can mold me any way they want me,” Onobun said. “I am hungry. I want to get better each and every day and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
    Onobun arrived to the Rams’ rookie minicamp this weekend ready for that molding process to begin after a fascinating journey in which football wasn’t even his primary sport at the collegiate level.
    Before playing one season of football for the University of Houston last season, Onobun hadn’t played the sport since he was a seventh grader at O’Donnell Middle School in Houston.
    Onobun had long since decided that basketball was the sport he wanted to pursue and his efforts at Alief Taylor High earned him scholarship offers from a number of high-major college basketball programs.
    Arizona ultimately emerged as Onobun’s destination as he served as a role player for the majority of his four years in Tucson, averaging 1 point and 0.8 rebounds in his final season.
    As a sophomore, Onobun says he was approached by football coaches at Arizona but he wanted to focus on hoops. So Onobun finished his four years and began evaluating his options for the next step in his career. The only thing he knew at that point was that he wanted to at least try to become a professional athlete.
    Onobun received overtures from basketball teams overseas but was intrigued by an opportunity that was coming from the football world.
    Duke basketball player Greg Paulus was exploring ways to use the NCAA’s eligibility rules to move from the hardwood to the gridiron.
    According to those rules, a player had five years to complete four years of eligibility in a sport. If that player completes his four years of eligibility in one sport, he has an additional year in which he can play a different sport.
    In addition, that player can transfer to another school and play the other sport without having to sit out a year.
    “I thought why not? Why not go home?” Onobun said. “It really helped me as far as just learning the game. I can’t imagine being here during this last year and not playing the game of football at all. That would have been ridiculous. Being at Houston really helped me get the foundation of the game where I am able to pick up certain things like blocking schemes and running routes, things like that.”
    Onobun chose to go home to Houston to play a year for his hometown Cougars. Although he was limited by an ankle injury, he played in 11 games with just two catches for 33 yards with a touchdown.
    For the most part, Onobun chipped in on special teams where he used his athleticism and height to block two kicks.
    Still, Onobun was well under the radar for most teams until a March 30 workout in which he put up some dazzling numbers. At 6’6 and a chiseled 252 pounds, Onobun ran the 40-yard dash in a blistering 4.49 seconds with a 37.5 inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 11 feet, 1 inch.
    It was enough to open the eyes of all NFL scouts and the Rams decided it was time to take a chance on Onobun when the sixth round began last Saturday with the hopes that he can follow in the footsteps of another tight end with a basketball background who turned into an NFL star such as San Diego’s Antonio Gates.
    “Everybody that’s been in that kind of situation reacts a little bit differently,” Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “Some of them are well documented, (Tony) Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, some of those guys catch on quick. We’ll find out with him.”
    On his first day of practice with the Rams on Friday, Onobun flashed some of that unsurfaced potential with some impressive catches in traffic. Although the Rams aren’t in pads and the veterans aren’t around, those signs were at least encouraging to Spagnuolo and tight ends coach Frank Leonard.
    Onobun even caught the first practice pass from first-round quarterback Sam Bradford and admitted afterward that he did stop to think about how far he’d come.
    “There were a few times where I was out here and I was like ‘Man, I am with the St. Louis Rams right now, this is crazy,’” Onobun said. “But football is football. You just go out there and try to do your best and make plays.”
    Onobun says the most difficult adjustment on the field has been to the tempo and speed of the game.
    But it’s not just that aspect that needs shaping for Onobun. At Houston, he played in a spread offense that didn’t utilize the tight end much and didn’t ask him to run the normal route tree.
    Onobun is a fast learner though and says he is spending as much time as he can with Leonard and at home trying to get familiar with all aspects of his new profession.
    And yes, as part of that studying, Onobun is watching the likes of Gates and Gonzalez. But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to be in their company.
    “I look at those guys and watch film on them,” Onobun said. “I just want to be the best. I am not trying to be Tony Gonzalez. I am not trying to be Antonio Gates. I want to be Fendi Onobun. I want to be the best tight end I can be.”
    Onobun calls his athletic ability a “blessing” and believes his athleticism is a tool that can be used to his advantage. And though everyone acknowledges that he’s a bit of a project, Onobun doesn’t think it will take as long to mold him as others might assume.
    “I don’t think I am as far off as most people think,” Onobun said. “I think I have a lot to learn. I think I have a long way to go but I am not as far off as many people would assume. I am just going to get better each and every day.”
    That daily improvement is precisely what Onobun means when he talks about molding him into a specific player. And though he made the choice to become a football player, he believes his choice was a part of a bigger plan for his life.
    “I believe this is my destiny right here,” Onobun said. “I am excited to be here. I am excited to learn and I think I have found something I can really be good at.”


  2. #2
    Scidog68's Avatar
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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    All Fan-boy or Homer rhetoric aside, I like this kid. A 6th rounder with ONE year of college experience instills very little confidence in me, however, I cannot help but be excited by his POTENTIAL.


    Hooah


    Win, Lose or Draw... Rams for Life!
    :football:

  3. #3
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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    Hey, using the clay analogy, with few preconceived ideas on how to play Tight End, you can give him all that good knowledge that he will actually need. At least the guy looks a natural catching the football, which is probably one of the harder things to coach. All he needs to learn is the mental aspects of the game, he has all the physical parts, minus probably the art of absorbing a blow.

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    MauiRam's Avatar
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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    We certainly have had our share of rotten luck lately, maybe our luck is finally starting to change. Onobun, Selvie, Gilyard, and Murphy could really help turn things around if they turn out to be the real deal - not to mention Saffold and that other guy, what's his name - you know - that Cherokee guy .. It will really be fun watching Fendi's development particularly against the whiners and seasquawks .. A 4.48 forty is pretty good for anyone, but at the end of forty yards Fendi is just starting to hit his stride. At 6'6" and 250+ lbs, not many dbs will relish the thought of a collision with him once he's got a head of steam going ..

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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    I hated this pick to death but he's a Ram now so I'm on board. I hope this guy can pull a miracle out of his butt and turn into a legit TE. Lord knows its been a while since we've had one.

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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    Just mentioning Gates and Gonzalez as possible similar cases with that of Fendi Onobun is indeed very exciting!

    Oh, how I hope this project takes off in the right direction and Ono becomes a real TE! Can I say better than Klopfenstein?...

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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    Watched his pro day video and he looks to have soft hands and nice acceleration. Just hope he can hit and take a hit.

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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    I think his lack of experience and lack of knowledge might be the best thing about him. He cant use any "bad" habits he's accumulated through the years and probably has alot more to be coached into him instead of out of him. All he has to rely on now is his athleticism to get to the next level.

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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    Quote Originally Posted by cfh128 View Post
    I hated this pick to death but he's a Ram now so I'm on board. I hope this guy can pull a miracle out of his butt and turn into a legit TE. Lord knows its been a while since we've had one.
    Why did you hate this pick? Just wondering.

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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    I guess "hated" is too strong of a word since we took him so late in the draft. But I kind of felt like it was a waste of a pick. I think if we wanted a tight end, we should have drafted a tight end, not a basketball player. Basketball player does not automatically equal Antonio Gates.

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    Bralidore(RAMMODE)'s Avatar
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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    Can't reiiterate enough that this was a sixth round flyer. Who did you prefer us to get in the sixth round, one of 3 rounds that have very low succes rates of hits. I'd rather take a flyer on a guy like this in the sixth than do what the Saints did and take a flyer on Graham in the third.

    cfh, im sure the FO understood that. His combination of speed, size, and soft hands leads one to believe that he can develop. Guys always complain about us not taking chances (and just about everything else the Rams do) but some, not singiling (spellcheck) you out, get mad when we finally do; especially when they haven't heard of the guy.

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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    Quote Originally Posted by cfh128 View Post
    I guess "hated" is too strong of a word since we took him so late in the draft. But I kind of felt like it was a waste of a pick. I think if we wanted a tight end, we should have drafted a tight end, not a basketball player. Basketball player does not automatically equal Antonio Gates.
    I think his value at that time during the draft was probably the highest of any other TE we could have drafted.

    Sure, he has no experience, and he might turn out to be nothing, but I think I would take that chance in the 6th round.

    He has a lot more upside than any of the TE's that were left. Unlike the other TE's that were left, this guy has the potential to develop into a star.

    The other TE's would have less of a chance to develop like Onobun because they have already created bad habits, are less athletic, etc.

    But with Onobun, it's like a fresh start. We can mold him how we see fit.

    Plus, his athletic ability certainly helps him with the development of his NFL career.


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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    Hey, I hope you guys are right. Almost anything would be better than what we had.

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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    Quote Originally Posted by cfh128 View Post
    Hey, I hope you guys are right. Almost anything would be better than what we had.
    Are you saying Randy McMichael was bad??

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    Re: Onobun's Development Underway

    out TE' are Uh-oh and Oh-no watch out.

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