When a team makes the jump from the FCS to the FBS, the landing can be very tricky. Making the jump after a mere two years as a program can be like trying to land an elephant on the head of a pin.
The Charlotte 49ers attempted that feat in 2015, seeing mixed success in their first year as a FBS program. While the record (2-10) left a lot to be desired, one thing that came out of the 49ers inaugural season was the standout play of of Larry Ogunjobi.
Ogunjobi, the son of Nigerian immigrants, was not an overly impressive recruit coming out of high school. The Greensboro, North Carolina native only started playing football during his sophomore year of high school.
It was immediately clear that, though raw, Ogunjobi was an athletic player with a significant amount of potential. He was an all-conference member in both his junior and senior seasons, recording double digit sacks as a senior.
Despite showing a significant upside during his three years of learning to play football, the scholarship offers did not come rolling in for Ogunjobi. He, and the Charlotte football program, were so under the radar that 247sports did not even have him listed on the team's recruiting list.
Let's just say that 247sports didn't exactly get the full signing class for Charlotte. Rivals rated him as a two-star, their designated rating for someone they know virtually nothing about. Even so, he was one of the first members of the Charlotte football program's very first recruiting class in 2012.
Due to the fact that the 49ers would not be playing in 2012, Ogunjobi took a redshirt during his first year. That redshirt would turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the nose tackle. He came in as an athletic but light nose tackle that needed to grow a bit physically. He did that and more, pushing closer to the 6-3, 294 pounds he is now.
In the 2013 football season, Ogunjobi stepped out on the field as a starter versus the Campbell Camels of the FCS and never looked back. The first player to wear the honorary #49 jersey in game one, he made the team's first ever tackle for loss. He also added 42 tackles on the season, 9.5 for loss. Ogunjobi was named to the FCS first team All-Independent team during his redshirt freshman season.
He looked even better as a sophomore, making 48 tackles on the season. In addition, he was the team leader with 11.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Again, he was one of the best players among FCS independent programs.
The 2015 season brought forth a new challenge for Ogunjobi as Charlotte attempted its first season as a FBS program. The 49ers had never faced a FBS program in the first two years of existence, but were slated to face off versus Georgia State of the Sun Belt to start the season.
Playing his first snaps versus FBS competition, he more than held his own. Ending the game with a surprise vistory over Georgia State, Ogunjobi finished the game with four tackles (1 tfl). From then on, he found his groove with 11 tackles versus Florida Atlantic and 10 tackles versus UTSA later in the season.
The nose tackle finished an impressive third on the team in tackles on the season, making 62 from his interior lineman position. He also made a team-high 14.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and even a blocked kick during his junior season.
For his hard work, Ogunjobi was named to the second team All-Conference USA squad. He was one of only two 49ers players to be named to the first or second team, running back Kalif Phillips was the other. A case could easily be made that he was robbed of a rightful first team selection, but that should be rectified when preseason 2016 All-CUSA voting commences.
Ogunjobi has started all 34 games in Charlotte's short history, accumulating 152 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss, and 10 career sacks. In addition, the rising senior has been one of the best academic performers for Charlotte, making the Conference USA Commissioner's Honor Roll in both 2014 and 2015.
Academics are what set the senior apart from the rest of the conference. He was the skill, size, and production to receive significant attention from the NFL. If he plays at or above his 2015 level, he will be invited to Senior Bowls, the combine, and any other NFL draft related process.
The question becomes whether he will take them up on the offer. Ogunjobi takes his school work very seriously and plans on applying for medical school. Just look at his LinkedIn profile and that should tell you all you need to know about him.
The made for Disney story basically writes itself. A son of Nigerian immigrants is going to college with a goal of heading to medical school and just happens to be one of the best defensive linemen in the country.