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  • Atogwe Finds A Way For Big Plays

    Thursday, December 28, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    As Washington running back Ladell Betts burst into the secondary late in Sunday’s game, the Rams’ playoff dreams seemed to be saddled on his back as Betts’ No. 46 jersey began to vanish further and further down the field.

    The only thing standing between Betts and a likely game-winning touchdown was free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who came from the side as Betts made an effort to secure the ball in his right arm.

    Atogwe grabbed Betts from the left side and swung his right arm around Betts’ back. In a fluid, punching motion, Atogwe jarred the ball loose. Corey Chavous fell on the ball and the Rams went on to win. It was a huge play in a game full of huge plays, but should the Rams make the playoffs this weekend, it might be the play that saved the season.

    “He practices that, and we practice that with our secondary; punching the ball out and getting it out,” coach Scott Linehan said. “O.J., he has a knack, has a feel for where the ball is. The fumble on Sunday, the guy actually…if you watch the tape, he had the ball locked away pretty good. He just had a perfect punch on it from behind, which is something we teach. But you’ve got to go execute it. He’s got a knack for that and hopefully we get many, many more.”

    The thought of Atogwe making such an important play in such a significant game would have seemed almost silly a year ago. After the Rams took Atogwe in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, he spent most of last season on the bench.

    Because of NFL rules that don’t allow rookies to join their teams until their final semester of school ends, Atogwe found himself behind the curve because of Stanford’s late graduation.

    Atogwe’s rookie season essentially amounted to nothing more than a redshirt year. He played in 13 games, but most were on special teams. He had an important sack in a comeback win against Houston.

    It wasn’t until the final week of the season against Dallas that Atogwe got his chance to shine. He took full advantage of the opportunity, coming up with a fumble recovery and an interception in the season finale.

    That game turned out to be just a glimpse into Atogwe’s propensity for being around the ball.

    “You come to realize you can get the ball out in the secondary because people don’t secure it as much as you think they would or should,” Atogwe said. “I didn’t have too much game experience. Practice helps tremendously but there is nothing like playing in the game. Every game I went into I see something new or something I hadn’t seen. I was constantly learning. It was sort of midway, the second half of the season where things start to get more repetitive.”

    Things have started to settle in this season for Atogwe, who was basically handed the starting job at free safety in the offseason. He spent all of the preseason, training camp and minicamps working to catch up on what he had missed.

    “Getting those first nine or 10 games under my belt really allows you to get a feel for this league and get the preparation and consistency day by day as far as playing at a high level,” Atogwe said. “Right now I am pretty comfortable. I try to continue to improve every day, but I definitely have more confidence.”

    Atogwe has had his ups and downs this season, but it seems there have been more ups than downs in recent weeks. After struggling a bit in coverage toward the beginning of the season, he has been in position to make plays more often of late.

    Of course, it’s Atogwe’s natural instinct to be around the ball that has provided most of the highlights this season. He leads the team with six forced fumbles and has added 84 tackles (third on the team), a sack, three interceptions, eight quarterback pressures, five passes defended and a fumble recovery.

    Atogwe said he works on knocking the ball loose as much as possible, but has learned to pick his spots.

    “If the opportunity presents itself, I try it every time,” Atogwe said. “But sometimes you are in a lot of space so you have to make sure you secure the tackle and making sure you get him down. If I am in a crowded area and my teammates are around me, I try to go for the ball.”

    Or, if maybe the other team is about to snatch your postseason hopes, you go ahead and try to make a play in the open field.

    Soon after Sunday’s game, a number of Rams coaches and players told Atogwe he saved the game – and the season – for the team for at least another week. Atogwe refuses to take credit for saving the game and the season, but if nothing else he is proving that he belongs and could have a bright future in the league.

    “I think the expectation for him now rises every week because we just see an improving player,” Linehan said. “He’s one of our emerging young players that is starting to really handle the role that he has. He was basically a rookie going into this season as far as playing, and had his ups and downs for the first half or two thirds of the season, but he’s one of a number of players who’s started to really come on here at the end of the year. He’s played very consistent. Now all of a sudden we’re being ultra hard on him like he’s played for 10 or 15 years, but I notice that he’s playing with so much more confidence. Two weeks in a row he’s come up with a real critical forced turnover when the other team’s penetrated. This one was certainly a game saver. The guys that play in the backend on defense are playmakers too, and that was a big-time play.”

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  • RamWraith
    Atogwe Finds A Way For Big Plays
    by RamWraith
    By Nick Wagoner -- Story courtesy St. Louis Rams


    Thu, February 22, 2007


    OJ Atogwe played high school and OVFL community football in Windsor, Ontario before attending Stanford University and being drafted by the St. Louis Rams. He is now the Rams 'big play' defender.

    As Washington running back Ladell Betts burst into the secondary late in a Decmeber game, the Rams' playoff dreams seemed to be saddled on his back as Betts' No. 46 jersey began to vanish further and further down the field.

    The only thing standing between Betts and a likely game-winning touchdown was free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who came from the side as Betts made an effort to secure the ball in his right arm.

    Atogwe grabbed Betts from the left side and swung his right arm around Betts' back. In a fluid, punching motion, Atogwe jarred the ball loose. Corey Chavous fell on the ball and the Rams went on to win. It was a huge play in a game full of huge plays, but should the Rams make the playoffs this weekend, it might be the play that saved the season.

    "He practices that, and we practice that with our secondary; punching the ball out and getting it out," coach Scott Linehan said. "O.J., he has a knack, has a feel for where the ball is. The fumble on Sunday, the guy actually...if you watch the tape, he had the ball locked away pretty good. He just had a perfect punch on it from behind, which is something we teach. But you've got to go execute it. He's got a knack for that and hopefully we get many, many more."

    The thought of Atogwe making such an important play in such a significant game would have seemed almost silly a year ago. After the Rams took Atogwe in the third round of the 2005 NFL Draft, he spent most of last season on the bench.

    Because of NFL rules that don't allow rookies to join their teams until their final semester of school ends, Atogwe found himself behind the curve because of Stanford's late graduation.

    Atogwe's rookie season essentially amounted to nothing more than a redshirt year. He played in 13 games, but most were on special teams. He had an important sack in a comeback win against Houston.

    It wasn't until the final week of the season against Dallas that Atogwe got his chance to shine. He took full advantage of the opportunity, coming up with a fumble recovery and an interception in the season finale.

    That game turned out to be just a glimpse into Atogwe's propensity for being around the ball.

    "You come to realize you can get the ball out in the secondary because people don't secure it as much as you think they would or should," Atogwe said. "I didn't have too much game experience. Practice helps tremendously but there is nothing like playing in the game. Every game I went into I see something new or something I hadn't seen....
    -02-23-2007, 05:03 AM
  • RamWraith
    Atogwe steps up as a takeaway artist for the Rams
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    12/11/2008

    Oshiomogho Atogwe's nickname is "O.J.," but an update may be necessary. Something along the lines of "O.J., the Human Takeaway" may be more appropriate.

    Atogwe got off to a slow start this season because of a hamstring injury that sidelined him for most of training camp and the preseason. But beginning with an interception against Buffalo in Game 4, Atogwe has been a takeaway waiting to happen.

    In seven of the past 10 games, Atogwe has been responsible for at least one takeaway, either in the form of an interception, a fumble recovery, or a forced fumble recovered by a Rams teammate.

    "O.J.'s a heck of a football player," coach Jim Haslett said recently. "I think people are starting to recognize that. The guy's a ball magnet. He does a great job punching the balls out."

    Say what you will about the Rams' struggling defense, it's hard to argue with Atogwe's numbers. In 13 games this season, the Rams have 17 takeaways. Atogwe has been responsible for 10 of them.

    He has four interceptions, recovered two fumbles, and four of his forced fumbles have been recovered by teammates. Atogwe returned one of those recovered fumbles 75 yards for a key touchdown in the Rams' 19-17 victory over Washington.

    "My mother told me a long time ago: 'Everybody has their time,' " Rams cornerback Jonathan Wade said. "Whatever you're doing, you have a time that's your time. You wonder how Ed Reed will end up year after year with eight, nine interceptions? How Ray Lewis has 100-something tackles?

    "There's no way to explain it, I don't think. It's just his time. He's very focused; very anointed by God right now."

    Atogwe didn't seem all that "anointed" coming out of Stanford in 2005.

    "When he first got here, he didn't have the best ball skills," Haslett said. "He worked on it and worked on it."

    Atogwe made it a point — and still does — to come in on Tuesdays, the players' normal day off during the regular sesason, and work on those ball skills.

    "It was one of the weaknesses that I felt I had — that I wasn't making a lot of plays as far as interceptions on the ball," Atogwe said.

    On Tuesdays, equipment assistant Matt Taylor operates a JUGS machine that spits out football after football Atogwe's way.

    "He'll do anywhere between 200 and 300 balls, and I'll just catch them," Atogwe said. "He shoots them to me from all different angles."

    Slowly but surely, Atogwe's hand-eye coordination improved, and so did his interception totals. After recording just one interception in limited playing time as a rookie, Atogwe picked off three passes in 2006, his first season as a starter. Last...
    -12-11-2008, 04:09 AM
  • RamWraith
    Atogwe quickly puts struggles behind him
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    Sunday, Sep. 16 2007

    About halfway through the 2006 season, something clicked for Rams free safety
    Oshiomogho "O.J." Atogwe.

    Coach Scott Linehan surmised that an infusion of confidence shifted Atogwe
    rather suddenly from an inconsistent performer to a solid defender. "He's a
    very tough kid who didn't have a lot of experience," Linehan said. "As he went
    though the ups and downs of the season, he really developed into a confident
    player."

    But Atogwe said, "I've always had confidence in myself. It was just more of ...
    relaxing and having the feeling that, 'OK, now you're here. You know what
    you're going to get, you know what to expect. Now, just settle down.'"

    A third-round draft pick (No. 66 overall) in 2005, Atogwe missed much of the
    offseason training at Rams Park that year because his college, Stanford, is on
    a quarters system and graduates its seniors later than most schools. NFL rules
    limit a rookie's participation until classes are completed.

    That put Atogwe behind from the get-go. "The rookies that were on semester
    systems had the (spring workout) periods to get introduced and familiar with
    the defense," he said, "whereas I'm coming into training camp where all the
    bullets are flying, going through two-a-days, and trying to learn the defense
    on top of that. It definitely was a tough situation."

    Still, he caught up quickly and played in 12 games. He started all 16 games
    last year, collecting 91 tackles (third on the team) and three interceptions.

    But he committed some glaring errors early in the season that cost the Rams
    dearly and had defensive coordinator Jim Haslett fuming.

    "It was my first season starting, so I really didn't know what to expect from
    the NFL," Atogwe said. "In the first half of the season, I was kind of up and
    down. But I felt like after (that), I kind of found myself and the player that
    I knew I could be."

    Among others, Atogwe credits veteran Corey Chavous, the Rams' strong safety,
    with aiding his development. Chavous played down his role, however.

    "I give him occasional pointers and things to work on, but I think the best
    thing I've done with O.J. is not do too much," Chavous said. "Any time you get
    a guy that has a good feel for the game, understands the game, has poise about
    himself in critical situations ... there's not a lot to say to him."

    At 5-feet-11 and 210 pounds, Atogwe packs a wallop, as indicated by the
    team-high six fumbles that he forced in 2006. But he also has the speed to stay
    with wide receivers and the smarts — he earned...
    -09-16-2007, 08:06 AM
  • RamWraith
    Atowge Settling in as Starter
    by RamWraith
    Tuesday, August 29, 2006

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    According to the roster, Oshiomogho Atogwe is entering his second season as an NFL safety.

    Why, then, does it seem like Atogwe is just beginning his rookie season? After an offseason that saw the Rams spend money to upgrade nearly every other position on the defense, there was nothing done to make a move at free safety.

    That’s because new coach Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett believed they had the guy they needed to take over a position that was nothing less than a revolving door for the past two seasons.

    That player is Atogwe. That’s right, the same Atogwe who might as well not have been on the roster with the exception of maybe two or three weeks in 2005.

    “A lot of good came out of last year,” Atogwe said. “It taught me to be more professional at this game, first and foremost. (It taught me to) play every play like it's your last play.”

    Atogwe’s rookie season wasn’t that much different from many rookie seasons. But, it’s safe to say it was a bit of a disappointment for a player who was a high third round choice in the NFL Draft. Even though he wasn’t necessarily expected to be a starter, many thought he would be in on special teams.

    After all, Atogwe was one of the top safeties taken in the draft. Perhaps he was at a disadvantage because of Stanford’s trimester system which cost him many practices and workouts in the offseason.

    When the season began, Michael Hawthorne started at free safety and Atogwe was active for special teams. In the opener against San Francisco, Atogwe made a few mistakes on special teams.

    Instantly, Atogwe found himself in the doghouse. He was inactive for three games and played in 13, with little of that action coming on defense. Things were so bad for Atogwe that he couldn’t play above Hawthorne, who was an unmitigated debacle at the position.

    Even when Hawthorne finally fell out of favor, converted receiver Mike Furrey took over the starting job. It was a tough time for the rookie out of Stanford.

    “One or two plays on special teams, and you're inactive,” Atogwe said. “You never know when you're going to get your next chance to play.”

    Atogwe did get a chance finally in week 12 against Houston. There, he showed flashes of what could be by coming up with a big sack late in the game.

    In the season finale against Dallas, Atogwe got his best opportunity and took advantage. He made three tackles and added a fumble recovery and an interception. By the end of the year, he had just five tackles with the sack, fumble recovery and interception and seven special teams tackles.

    “It's a tough experience to go through, but it was also a needed experience,” Atogwe said. “The NFL is a tough game to play. You have to take your hills with...
    -08-29-2006, 01:54 PM
  • RamWraith
    Atogwe Settling in as Starter
    by RamWraith
    By Nick Wagoner -- Senior Writer, stlouisrams.com


    Wed, September 20, 2006


    According to the roster, Oshiomogho Atogwe is entering his second season as
    an NFL safety.

    Why, then, does it seem like Atogwe is just beginning his rookie season?
    After an offseason that saw the Rams spend money to upgrade nearly every
    other position on the defense, there was nothing done to make a move at free
    safety.

    That's because new coach Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett
    believed they had the guy they needed to take over a position that was
    nothing less than a revolving door for the past two seasons.

    That player is Atogwe. That's right, the same Atogwe who might as well not
    have been on the roster with the exception of maybe two or three weeks in
    2005.

    "A lot of good came out of last year," Atogwe said. "It taught me to be more
    professional at this game, first and foremost. (It taught me to) play every
    play like it's your last play."

    Atogwe's rookie season wasn't that much different from many rookie seasons.
    But, it's safe to say it was a bit of a disappointment for a player who was
    a high third round choice in the NFL Draft. Even though he wasn't
    necessarily expected to be a starter, many thought he would be in on special
    teams.

    After all, Atogwe was one of the top safeties taken in the draft. Perhaps he
    was at a disadvantage because of Stanford's trimester system which cost him
    many practices and workouts in the offseason.

    When the season began, Michael Hawthorne started at free safety and Atogwe
    was active for special teams. In the opener against San Francisco, Atogwe
    made a few mistakes on special teams.

    Instantly, Atogwe found himself in the doghouse. He was inactive for three
    games and played in 13, with little of that action coming on defense. Things
    were so bad for Atogwe that he couldn't play above Hawthorne, who was an
    unmitigated debacle at the position.

    Even when Hawthorne finally fell out of favor, converted receiver Mike
    Furrey took over the starting job. It was a tough time for the rookie out of
    Stanford.

    "One or two plays on special teams, and you're inactive," Atogwe said. "You
    never know when you're going to get your next chance to play."

    Atogwe did get a chance finally in week 12 against Houston. There, he showed
    flashes of what could be by coming up with a big sack late in the game.

    In the season finale against Dallas, Atogwe got his best opportunity and
    took advantage. He made three tackles and added a fumble recovery and an
    interception. By the end of the...
    -09-21-2006, 04:26 AM
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