Oklahoma Drill: David Njoku

David Njoku

Tight end, Miami
Born: July 10, 1996
Experience: 2017 NFL Draft prospect
David Njoku went from the scout team to the national scene in just three seasons at the University of Miami, and he is slated to be the first Hurricane off the board in the 2017 NFL Draft. The former high school high-jump champion discusses why he doesn’t fear blocking, the most unique question he was asked during the NFL Scouting Combine and that thrilling (and controversial) end to a contest against Duke during his college days.
Interview by Nick ShookMarch 21, 2017

I’d say during my junior year [of high school], against a team called Shabazz, [I realized I could play Division I football]. I made a spectacular catch, and it was like the last second of the first half. It was then when I was like, “I can do this in college.”

[My college choice] was between Miami and Ohio State. At the last minute, I felt more at home at Miami. The coaches, the players, the academics are top-notch and the athletics, obviously, it’s a great foundation.

The [only former standout Miami tight end] I didn’t talk to was Bubba Franks. I talked to everybody else — Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow [Jr.], Greg Olsen, Clive Walford, you know Stan Dobard is going to the draft this year as well — they’re all great people. I talked to Jeremy Shockey the most, probably. He’s the guy I asked questions to if I ever needed anything. Greg Olsen is also a great guy. Stan — me and Stan are very close. I tell him everything.

I almost cried that game [against Duke in 2015], honestly. It was really emotional. I owe it all to God, you know. The play was to throw it back, one reverse, and just take off, but I guess they were planning on that, so we kept throwing it back and forth.

That moment that [Miami defensive back Corn] Elder caught the ball, it just clicked. Now was the time to go. I saw two guys, and I’m like, “Uh, one stone, two birds, let’s see what we got.” So I lay out one of them and I kind of chipped the other one to stop him enough, blocked both of them for Corn to pass, and Corn did the rest. Corn is a beast.

I don’t think we missed a beat [with new head coach Mark Richt]. We just kept working hard, everyone bought in, and I think we did all right.

Where I’m from, I think I’m the first person in my town to go to the NFL. I feel like I had my whole town behind me, and that gave me the courage to beat some side obstacles I was facing, whether I was scared or whatever it was, it gave me the courage to pursue this goal.

I try not to compare [myself with current professionals], because I feel like the league and college are two different things. I’m trying to just see where I’m at when I get there.

I think [I model my game after] Kellen Winslow [Jr.] on the field. … He and I share the same speed. I might be able to jump a little higher, but he’s a great athlete.

I’m not afraid to block. I was never afraid to block. I’ve been blocking since I was like 230 [pounds] against people who were 270. I’m just getting bigger and stronger every day, so I feel like blocking for me isn’t a problem. Being coached by [Miami special teams coordinator and tight ends Todd] Hartley, blocking is very important. They don’t like just receiving tight ends because they don’t believe in that, so they put down the hammer when it comes to blocking. It’s very serious, so we took it as such.

There’s a lot of distractions, though, meeting with teams or [doing] interviews. I’m interviewing, if not every day, every other day or so. But it’s good, it’s a blessing, it’s good problems. I’m excited, very excited.

I walked into the [interview] room [at the NFL Scouting Combine, and] it was completely silent. They didn’t let me shake anyone’s hands. I sat down, it was quiet for maybe 30 seconds, and the coach asked me, “David, where does the sun rise and where does the sun set?” And I’m looking around and everyone has a straight face, no one’s laughing, it’s just serious. So I look around and I go, “OK, I remember the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.” So I answer that, it’s quiet for maybe 10 more seconds, and he’s like, “OK, turn on the TV,” and we start talking about film. That threw me way off.

I think my speed [is my greatest asset]. I ran a 4.64, but I don’t believe that’s my game speed; I think I’m a lot faster than that. I’ve been running, when I was training, and hit like 4.4 consistently, so I’m not too worried about that.

It’s game speed that matters. I think I’m going to run the 40 one more time in my whole life, and then never again.

A bunch of teams didn’t know that I knew already what I know, if that makes any sense. When it comes to reading defenses, fronts, coverages, techniques, everything, I think I aced most, if not all, of the combine meetings. Everyone said I did well, so I’m trying to show everybody that I’m more than just a receiver. I can block, I can read stuff as well, so I’m just trying to show everyone what I’m capable of doing.

I might start crying [when I get drafted]. First thing I do when I get picked, I think I’m going to go down to the ground, pray real quick, thank God, and I can’t control tears. It might happen, it might not. And if it happens, it is what it is. And if it doesn’t, thank God I didn’t cry on TV.

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