Now that the NFL owners and players have reached an agreement, the nearly four-month work stoppage has come to an end. But, there have been whispers from fans, wondering if players are going to return in prime shape because of being disallowed to participate in organized team workouts for most of the lockout. Will they injure easily? Will they come in slow and overweight?
Well, if youâ€™re a San Diego Chargers fan, donâ€™t fret about the condition of third-year defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo, because if one thereâ€™s one thing he mastered during his two years at Michigan State, itâ€™s to always be in peak physical condition. He worked with outside trainers during the NFLâ€™s downtime and heâ€™s ready to hit the field.
â€œIt was definitely necessary from a league standpoint for the Players Union and the owners to get together and get an agreement that everybodyâ€™s happy with,â€ he said during a recent interview with Spartan Nation Radio. â€œIâ€™m ready to go and play football.â€
Now that his days in East Lansing are behind him, Nwagbuo can reflect on the dedication it took for him to reach the NFL, and it was obvious during his recent interview with Spartan Nation Radio that heâ€™s still the same â€œOGâ€ he was while bowling over offensive lineman as a Spartan.
â€œThatâ€™s my goal, to play hard,â€ he said. â€œIf you donâ€™t do anything, but you play hard, you can be happy with that. â€¦ I go hard with everything I do; go 100 percent with everything I do and Iâ€™ll be alright.â€
There wasnâ€™t much doubt that Nwagbuo had a professional career ahead of him. He possessed the size at 6-foot-5 and 315 pounds that would make any NFL defensive coordinator salivate. He was a proficient pass-rusher, quick on his feet and a great blocker.
But, of course â€“ like any jump to the next level â€“ Nwagbuo had to work to sharpen his skills in the NFL. The Chargers defensive tackle was reminded how much of a difference there is between college and pro ball when he tangled with the New York Giants his rookie season in 2009.
There have been a laundry list of adjustments heâ€™s made now heâ€™s a pro, and itâ€™s hard to narrow the changes down to just one, he said.
â€œItâ€™s hard to pinpoint. Thereâ€™s several adjustments, just because the speed of the game,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s so fast, and youâ€™re playing against the top level athletes in the worldâ€¦. These are the best football players in the world (in the NFL). You kind of have to adjust to everything.â€
Perhaps the biggest adjustment isnâ€™t physical at all.
â€œYou just have to adjust to the mental approach,â€ he said.
Known as a mild-mannered player while in East Lansing, you probably wonâ€™t catch Nwagbuo crack a smile during an NFL contest. He earned a reputation as a â€œgood guyâ€ as a Spartan, but he jokingly asked not to let too many people know about it.
You can bet there will be a few smiles Christmas Eve for Nwagbou, who is slated to compete with former Spartans teammate Drew Stanton, back-up quarterback for the Detroit Lions.
But, maybe not â€” Nwagbuo cited a preseason game from not long ago when Stanton walked away with the upper hand.
â€œHe got the best of me,â€ said Nwagbuo, laughing. â€œHe kind of shook me and got about a 10-yard run. I definitely want a rematch.â€
Nwagbuo will have to contend with former Michigan State signal-caller Brian Hoyer when the Chargers meet the New England Patriots. Thereâ€™s a duel with the New York Jets and Spartans great Eric Smith, along with a clash with former Spartans punter Brandon Fields and the Miami Dolphins.
Part of the joy of playing in the pros is having the chance to square off against old friends, says Nwagbuo, who is looking forward to meeting his â€œSpartan Dogs.â€
â€œItâ€™s crazy to see guys you used to be teammates with,â€ said Nwagbuo. â€œYouâ€™re playing against them, but you kind of talk about old football memories. â€¦ You have to enjoy that.â€
Nwagbuo said he typically talks to Hoyer before playing the Patriots, and itâ€™s likely the two talk about Nwagbuoâ€™s greatest memory as a Spartan: 2008â€™s 35-31 comeback win against the Penn State Nittany Lions.
The Spartans outscored Penn State 28-14 in the second half to secure a bowl bid, and Hoyer threw for 257 yards and four touchdowns.
Spartan Nation Did You Know?
Nwagbuo is proud of his Spartans. Matter of fact, he said he had a great time trading competitive banter last season with Chargers teammates that are former Big Ten standouts, many of which he competed against in college. Watching the Spartans claim the Big Ten title was fuel for heated debates.Â
The Chargers have one of the most Big Ten-loaded rosters in the NFL. Hereâ€™s a look at the guys who likely hear of Nwagbuoâ€™s allegiance to the Green and White on a regular basis.
Tyrone Carter (Minnesota)
Traye Simmons (Minnesota)
Luis Castillo (Northwestern)
Kris Dielman (Indiana)
Nick Hardwick (Purdue)
Shaun Phillips (Purdue)
Nate Kaeding (Iowa)
Jay Leman (Illinois)
Corey Liguet (Illinois)
Jonas Muton (Michigan)
Steve Schilling (Michigan)