As he wraps up preparations for the 68th East-West Shrine Bowl in Orlando on Saturday (3 pm central on the NFL Network), Cheta Ozougwu answered a few questions for the R Blog recounting the series of events that have presented him with multiple opportunities to showcase his talents for NFL scouts.
I think you told me that you originally made the switch from basketball to football in high school because you were told it would offer you the chance to get a college scholarship? At that time, would you have ever allowed yourself to think in terms of possibly getting drafted into the NFL?
Not at all, I definitely try to take the process step by step, day by day.
Was there a moment in time, during your Rice career, when the idea of playing on Sundays became a realistic possibility for you?
I have always been confident in my playing abilities. However, I guess after matching up with the tackle from Oklahoma State last year (Russell Okung, taken sixth overall by Seattle last year in the Draft), and seeing him go as high as he did in the draft, just assured me that I can definitely play well against the best.
After the season was over, but before you received the invitation, what did you feel your chances of getting an invite were?
Well, I was pretty sure before the season I would get an invite after talking to many scouts, since my national scouting grade was pretty good. However, you never know what can happen, especially with the way the season ended up, but things ended up working out.
Talk a little about how you found out about the invitation to the Combine, and what was your first reaction?
My agent told me that they should be giving the invites out late in December, so on New Year's Eve I randomly checked the website to see how the process works, and saw that all eligible prospects should receive a invitation via email on the 31st, so I checked my email and saw the invite. I was pretty excited and started to thank God. I know you don't need a combine invite to make it to the NFL, but it certainly helps.
How about your family, any memorable moments when you told them?
My entire family was ecstatic when I told them. They have been praying for me through this entire process. I left the invitation email on my computer, and left the laptop in my sister's room. When my sister came back from work, and walked into her room and read what was on the screen, she started screaming and praising God as well.
You battled through a tough season because of the nagging injuries, combined with the loss of Scott Solomon. How tough was it to keep going, and do you think that the way you approached the challenge
helped get you the shot at the Combine?
Most definitely, situations like that only make you stronger. There wasn't a moment where I thought about if I was going to get an invite to the Combine or any All Star games during the season. I was just focused on improving my technique every day and doing the best I could to help Rice win football games.
Have you talked to any of your former teammates (Jarett Dillard and James Casey) who have been through the combine experience? If so, did they give you any advice in terms of your preparation?
I have talked to James a few times and we text each other a lot. I called Jarett to get some insight on the East-West game, since he played in the same game a few years back. I also have talked with Andrew Sendejo a few times as well. They have all given me great advice about the draft/agent selection process and what to expect. James has been very supportive in the agent selection process and I decided to sign with the same agent that represents him.
I know you said you were training in Florida. What's your schedule like in the coming months?
I am training with Pete Bommarito in Miami. I came down on January 3rd. I left for the East West Shrine game in Orlando on the 15th and will continue training in Miami as soon as the game is over with. I plan on training in Miami until the Combine and then training in Houston until Rice's Pro Day in March. I visited a few training facilities after the season was over but after talking to Pete and seeing the work that he has done in the past, and talking it over with Coach K and his staff, I decided that Pete's program was the best fit for me. There are about 30 guys out here I'm training with from potential top 15 picks to low round guys, from Penn State to USC, it's a perfect blend of guys working hard and competing every day.
Obviously school was a top priority for you, how close are you to graduating?
I am still enrolled in school and will graduate in May this year. I only have six more hours to graduate and I am completing two independent research studies to fulfill my requirement. Graduating is definitely a priority for me and I am on track to do so.
I think I remember you talking at some point this season about going to interviews and possibly having a job opportunity lined up. Did you have something in case the Combine did not come up?
I was fortunate enough to receive a few job offers from some amazing Fortune 500 companies after completing some internship programs the past several summers... companies such as Aon, Merrill Lynch and Hitachi. However, football is my focus right now.