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  1. #1
    tomahawk247's Avatar
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    St. Louis Rams' Fendi Onobun continues long journey to NFL

    BY BILL COATS
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    04/30/2010

    Viewing tape of his first two-a-day practice session at the University of Houston, Fendi Onobun was shocked. "I looked terrible," Onobun recalled.

    That inelegant outing occurred eight months ago. Much has taken place since then, capped by Onobun being chosen by the Rams in the sixth round of the NFL draft last week.

    "It was just after the last pick of the fifth round. My phone rang and I saw the 314 area code," Onobun said. "They said, 'Hey, we're going to be picking you with our next pick.'

    "That was it right there."

    "It" was the culmination of an improbable journey that took Onobun (pronounced AH-no-bun) from the basketball courts at the University of Arizona to the football field at Houston to a shot at an NFL career.

    Before the 2009 season during which Onobun, a tight end, caught just two passes for 33 yards he had not played football since he was a seventh-grader at O'Donnell Middle School in Houston.

    "We're taking a flier, guys," general manager Billy Devaney conceded after the Rams selected Onobun with the 170th overall pick. "We know that. It's a project in its truest sense."

    A project that could produce dividends, according to coach Steve Spagnuolo.

    "I think it was well worth the chance, because he's got great skills and a great body," Spagnuolo said. "The unknown is, you're talking about a guy who didn't really play a lot of college football. Can he get on this stage, with a helmet and pads on and knowing you're going to get hit the minute you catch it?

    "There's a lot going forward that we need to find out. And we're still not going to know that after this minicamp, either."

    The 6-foot-6, 252-pound Onobun, 23, will get his first look in full gear during the three-day rookie minicamp that begins today at Rams Park. If he performs anywhere near the way he did in shorts at his pro day and during a private workout with the Rams, Onobun will bear watching.

    "We heard his numbers were off the chart" at the pro day, Devaney said, so he dispatched tight ends coach Frank Leonard and scout Steve Kazor to Houston just two days before the draft to put Onobun through the paces.

    "They came back and said athletically, he's phenomenal," Devaney reported.

    "They gave us the film and I watched it," Spagnuolo said. "I was like, 'Wow!'"

    FROM HOOPS TO CLEATS

    Onobun was a McDonald's All-American nominee and considered a prize recruit by then-Arizona coach Lute Olson after averaging 16 points and eight rebounds a game as a senior at Alief Taylor High in Houston. Onobun also scored in the classroom, finishing near the top of his graduating class and earning membership in the National Honor Society.

    Stuck behind future NBA players Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, Onobun never was much more than a bit player at Arizona. Still, he completed his degree and was looking into pro basketball opportunities in Europe when he remembered a discussion he'd had with the football staff at Arizona.

    "They actually approached me my sophomore year and said, 'Hey, you should give football a try. We'd definitely love to have you,'" Onobun said. "But I was really wrapped up in the basketball" then.

    No longer tethered to the hard court, Onobun last year decided to "roll the dice and see what happens."

    Under NCAA guidelines, an athlete has five years to complete four years of eligibility in any one sport. If an athlete completes his eligibility in four years, he is eligible to use that fifth year to participate in another sport.

    "It was something that had always been in the back of my mind," he said. "I just thought, 'Hey, why not give it a shot,' get a chance to start on my master's and see what football can do for me."

    A high-ankle sprain derailed him before the season started, but he got into 11 of the Cougars' 14 games. He appeared mostly on special teams, where he blocked two kicks.

    Onobun wasn't invited to the NFL scouting combine, "so I put my all into training for my pro day. I just wanted to make the most of it. I knew it was my Super Bowl."

    AUDITION DAY

    Twelve hopefuls auditioned for NFL talent scouts March 30 inside the Yeoman Field House on the Houston campus. Here are the numbers that, Onobun put up, compared with the best results in the same events by tight ends at the combine:

    40-yard dash: 4.48 seconds (4.40)

    20-yard shuttle: 4.15 seconds (4.17)

    Vertical leap: 37 inches (43)

    Broad jump: 11 feet, 1 inch (10-6)

    When the Rams confirmed Onobun's prowess in front of Leonard and Kazor, they found a spot for him on their draft board. Still, Onobun knew that nothing was guaranteed.

    "It was nerve-wracking. I really didn't know if I was going to be drafted or not," he said. "I kind of heard some speculation as far as I might be a sixth-round pick or a seventh-round pick, but you never really know. It's out of your hands, so you just sit and wait."

    The waiting ended Saturday afternoon. Today, the trial begins to see if Onobun can become the next Antonio Gates or Tony Gonzalez Pro Bowl-caliber tight ends who also played basketball in college.

    "That's the goal," Onobun said. "Those guys kind of paved the way for guys like myself making the conversion over from basketball to football. I'm just excited to start my path.

    "Hopefully, a couple years down the road, somebody says, 'Who's the next Fendi Onobun?'"


  2. #2
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    Re: St. Louis Rams' Fendi Onobun continues long journey to NFL

    Here's hoping. The problem with basketball players who are converted into football players is that there not used to taking hits. Then again in two or three years from now we can be looking back at this and say wow we got a steal.
    Last edited by mikhal5569; -04-30-2010 at 12:39 PM.

  3. #3
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    Re: St. Louis Rams' Fendi Onobun continues long journey to NFL

    Heres a great idea, stick pads on him, chuck him the ball and let guys hit him over and over again! Should get him used to getting hit

    Dont worry about him getting injured, hes superman

  4. #4
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    Re: St. Louis Rams' Fendi Onobun continues long journey to NFL

    Perfect pick at that point in the draft from my perspective. There is also the chance with that athletic ability, he can be an excellent special teams player.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


  5. #5
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    Re: St. Louis Rams' Fendi Onobun continues long journey to NFL

    If he gives us anything it will be better than nothing compared to preclvious 6th round picks

  6. #6
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    Re: St. Louis Rams' Fendi Onobun continues long journey to NFL

    I cant wait to see this guy in preseason for myself.

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