From Walk-On to the NFL

Rams roll dice on UH’s Onobun, a dual-sport star

Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle

Though he never played a down of organized high school football, Fendi Onobun remembers the times that some of his friends would tell him “You're going to play in the NFL one day.”

Onobun would laugh and dismiss the notion. After all, he was a basketball player, and that's where he once believed his future was.

It turns out that his friends were right.

In what has been a unique journey, the University of Houston walk-on tight end and former University of Arizona and Alief Taylor basketball player will get a chance at an NFL career after the Rams selected Onobun with the first pick of the sixth round (170th overall) of the NFL draft on Saturday.

“I can't believe it,” Onobun said. “I just think back and think of so many things that I've been through.”

The 6-51/2, 252-pound Onobun experienced a lot in the last year. After concluding his four-year basketball career at Arizona, Onobun took a stab at the Wildcats' pro day last April but also contemplated a professional basketball career overseas. Scouts who saw him told him that he'd have a chance to get drafted if he played a year of football. With his degree already done, Onobun opted to continue his education at UH, where he walked on with the Cougars.

The 2009 season was the first time Onobun competed in organized football since he was a seventh grader at O'Donnell Middle School in Alief ISD. He didn't play while he was at Alief Taylor — he focused on basketball before signing with Arizona.

Well Worth It For Walk-On

Though Onobun didn't rack up huge numbers (two catches, 33 yards and two blocked kicks), he did appear in some capacity in all 11 UH games. Those games helped him get familiarized with football again. It was during UH's pro day in March when Onobun wowed the NFL scouts. He ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash, a 4.15-second shuttle and posted a 37 1/2 vertical jump and an 11-foot, 1-inch broad jump.

His athletic ability was impressive enough for the Rams to grab Onobun, perhaps adding another target for their newest quaterback, top overall pick Sam Bradford.

"It was all worth it - walking on to the (Cougars), having to take out a loan to pay for grad school, all the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations, arguing with my dad contemplating whether I wanted to go play (basketball) overseas or if I wanted to play football," Onobun said. "I'm a big believer that my steps are orded and that God has a plan. I believe everything worked out the way it is supposed to." 

'Just the Beginning'

He said he never would have beleived back in high school that he would return to football, but he is ready for the challenge.

"This is just the beginning," Onobun said. "It's a new level of competition and a new level of work. I'm going to have to carry myself like a professional and work like a professional. This is now my livelihood and my job."

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