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St. Louis Rams' Fendi Onobun continues long journey to NFL

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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: 37½ inches (43½)

    — 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?'"
    @EssexRam_

  • #2
    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, 09:39 AM.

    Comment


    • #3
      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

      Comment


      • #4
        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

        Comment


        • #5
          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

          Comment


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

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

            Comment

            Related Topics

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            • RockinRam
              Onobun's Development Underway
              by RockinRam
              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...
              -05-01-2010, 04:47 PM
            • r8rh8rmike
              From Sneakers To Cleats: Onobun Makes It
              by r8rh8rmike
              From sneakers to cleats: Onobun makes it

              By Bill Coats
              Monday, September 6, 2010


              With a total of two receptions in his one season of college football, tight end Fendi Onobun arrived at Rams Park in late April about as raw as rookies come.

              "I just remember coming in after the draft for the rookie minicamp. ... I was like, ‘Man, what'd I get myself into?'" Onobun said Monday after the Rams' first official regular-season practice.

              That Onobun was still around for that practice is the culmination of what he described as an "unexplainable" journey. "It's an unbelievable story, and it's just the beginning," he said. "I'm really, really excited."

              The 6-foot-6, 249-pound Onobun played basketball at the University of Arizona, mostly as a reserve forward behind future NBA performers Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger.

              After completing his degree, he was considering continuing basketball in Europe. But recalling an overture he received from the football staff at Arizona during his sophomore year, Onobun decided to "roll the dice and see what happens."

              He enrolled at the University of Houston and joined the football team. He hadn't played football since he was a seventh-grader at O'Donnell Middle School in Houston.

              Onobun got into 11 games, mostly on special teams, for the Cougars. He caught two passes for 33 yards. But the Rams were blown away by his athleticism during a private workout and took him in the sixth round of the draft (No. 170 overall).

              That gave Onobun four months to make enough progress to prove that he was worth keeping, at least on the practice squad. He did more: He made the 53-man roster.

              "It was pretty evident that (Onobun) has some skills; he's an athlete," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Then when you said, ‘OK, let's see when he gets the pads on,' he showed enough in pads that he deserved and earned his way on the 53.

              "Now, he still has a long way to go. He knows that. ... We'll just keep on pushing and hopefully at the end there we have a refined tight end."
              -09-06-2010, 06:47 PM
            • r8rh8rmike
              Onobun Catching On
              by r8rh8rmike
              Onobun Catching On
              Monday, August 9, 2010


              By Nick Wagoner
              Senior Writer

              Sometimes, after he goes to bed following a long day of practice, meetings and everything else encompassed by an NFL training camp, rookie tight end Fendi Onobun can hear the voice.

              The loud, scratchy, East coast voice of tight ends coach Frank Leonard replays over and over as Onobun tries to catch a full night’s rest.

              “His voice is so loud, I really sometimes do hear him screaming at me in my dreams just because he’s always on me,” Onobun said.

              As the Rams player with perhaps the most to learn, Onobun doesn’t mind all of the attention he’s getting from Leonard as he tries to learn all things NFL.

              “That’s a good thing,” Onobun said. “You have a coach screaming at you, on you like that, all the time every second of the practice that means he really cares. So I’d rather have him screaming at me than not saying anything at all.”

              For Leonard’s part, Onobun is something of a passion project after the Rams used a sixth-round choice on him in April’s NFL Draft.

              Coming out of the University of Houston, Onobun had just one season of football experience following a four-year career playing basketball at the University of Arizona.

              So while the learning curve for any rookie is naturally steep because of the increased speed and voluminous playbooks that are prevalent in the NFL, it’s not just the NFL game that Onobun has to get used to. It’s football as a whole.

              And it’s Leonard’s job to ensure that happens.

              “It’s challenging,” Leonard said. “It makes me make sure I am prepared and I am teaching the details of the position. It’s very exciting. It’s challenging for Fendi and it’s challenging for me to teach him the game of football and he’s a very willing participant which makes it exciting. He’s got a positive outlook on the whole situation.”

              Onobun’s football education began back in the spring when he first reported for the team’s rookie minicamp at the end of April. Because of injuries at the tight end position, Onobun got some additional repetitions and was able to get acclimated a bit quicker than even he had hoped.

              In this training camp, Onobun has had his share of ups and downs but he’s also flashed some of the enormous potential that goes with a guy who is 6’6, 249 pounds and an off the charts athlete.

              In last Friday’s practice, while quarterback Sam Bradford was drawing rave reviews for his accurate throws, it was Onobun getting open down the field and providing him a target.

              “It’s coming along,” Onobun said. “I have made some mistakes but the biggest thing is just not to make the same mistakes. With me, I spend a lot of time in the playbook, I am watching film, I am talking to Danny and I am talking to Darcy and Billy and those...
              -08-09-2010, 06:52 PM
            • sjacksonrules
              Fendi Onobun?
              by sjacksonrules
              Did we give up on this guy? Or did someone snag him?
              -09-05-2011, 06:15 AM
            • MauiRam
              Onobun makes Rams as long shot ..
              by MauiRam
              BY BILL COATS Tuesday, September 7, 2010 12:00 am

              With a total of two receptions in his one season of college football, tight end Fendi Onobun arrived at Rams Park in late April about as raw as rookies come.

              "I just remember coming in after the draft for the rookie minicamp. I was like, 'Man, what'd I get myself into?'" Onobun said Monday after the Rams' first official regular-season practice.

              That Onobun was still around for that practice is the culmination of what he described as an "unexplainable" journey. "It's an unbelievable story, and it's just the beginning," he said. "I'm really, really excited."

              The 6-foot-6, 249-pound Onobun played basketball at the University of Arizona, mostly as a reserve forward behind future NBA performers Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger.

              After completing his degree, Onobun was considering continuing basketball in Europe. But recalling an overture he received from the football staff at Arizona during his sophomore year, Onobun decided to "roll the dice and see what happens."

              He enrolled at the University of Houston and joined the football team. He hadn't played football since he was a seventh-grader at O'Donnell Middle School in Houston.

              Onobun got into 11 games, mostly on special teams, for the Cougars. His two receptions netted 33 yards. But the Rams were blown away by his athletic ability during a private workout and took him in the sixth round of the draft (No. 170 overall).

              That gave Onobun about four months to make enough progress to prove that he was worth keeping, at least on the practice squad. He did more: He made the 53-man roster, despite some worrisome moments Saturday, the day the majority of cuts were made.

              Players who are let go get a phone call; those who are sticking don't.

              "I was a little worried. Family was calling me, friends were calling me: 'Hey, did you make the 53?'" Onobun said. "Every time the phone rang, I jumped. I was like, 'It's no secret. I'll let you know as soon as I find out.' ... But no news was good news."

              Ultimately, the Rams decided the Onobun could contribute now, at least on special teams, and kept four tight ends. The others are Billy Bajema, Daniel Fells and fifth-round draftee Michael Hoomanawanui.

              "It was pretty evident that (Onobun) has some skills; he's an athlete," coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "Then when you said, 'OK, let's see when he gets the pads on,' he showed enough in pads that he deserved and earned his way on the 53.

              "Now, he still has a long way to go. He knows that. ... We'll just keep on pushing and hopefully at the end there we have a refined tight end."

              butler is back

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              -09-07-2010, 12:50 AM
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