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An 'ultimate competitor,' Broncos' Michael Ojemudia aims to make early impact

Former Iowa star brings physical, gritty style to cornerback
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Posted at 4:30 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 18:57:13-04

DENVER — A few weeks ago, Michael Ojemudia could not prevent a smile from creasing his face. The subject was cars. He likes them, having grown up outside of Detroit where his father Dennis worked as a designer for the Ford Motor Company.

"I am thinking about getting a fast one -- maybe a Ford Mustang -- but I don't know if that makes sense in Denver," said Ojemudia, featured Wednesday night in Denver7's latest 'Meet The Picks' at 6 p.m. "I will be smart with my money."

Ojemudia makes sense of the world through math. He majored in mechanical engineering, and took a class in thermal dynamics.

"For me, it's probably genetics," Ojemudia said. "I see numbers more than letters."

As such, Ojemudia knows he could be a key variable in the Broncos' secondary equation. Along with receiver Jerry Jeudy and center Lloyd Cushenberry, Ojemudia boasts a chance to start. With no preseason games and only 14 padded practices in training camp, the challenge is daunting.

However, the potential exists.

"I definitely think I can. The key for me is getting those butterflies out of the way. Playing fast means you have to know what you are doing first," Ojemudia said. "I have to get the grasp of the defense so when I get on field I have to get mistakes out of the way as soon as I can."

While the Broncos are likely to lean on their defense early on -- Denver held eight of its final 12 opponents to 20 points or less last season -- cornerback remains a question. Former Pro Bowler A.J. Bouye, acquired from Jacksonville, will start, and Bryce Callahan, his surgically-repaired foot healthy, figures to work against slot receivers. That leaves De'Vante Bausby, Isaac Yiadom, Davontae Harris and Ojemudia vying for time at one spot.

Ojemudia checks off several boxes. He brings size — 6-foot, 200 pounds — speed — 4.45 40-yard dash — and an appetite for collisions.

"He’s really on schedule as a tackler and a hitter, which we know is very important to the Broncos’ style of defense. How he fits in -- we want him to do as much as he can as a rookie. Time will only tell that. What I can tell you is he’s really, really in the top part of the class as far as his learning curve. He’s picked up our scheme in a virtual sense and about as good as you’ll find in a rookie," defensive coordinator Ed Donatell said. "He’s off to a good start. We’re just really eager to get him on the field and get started coaching him in a physical sense.”

Ojemudia did not have to warm up to tackling. He played in the box in high school as a hybrid defender.

"That’s something I pride myself on, just enforcing your will on the other guy. That’s how I grew up. It’s how I was in high school, my position was basically safety-linebacker. I just come down and strike dudes," Ojemudia said. "That’s kind of how I am built. And when I went to college I never lost it."

At Iowa, Ojemudia became a testament to patience and prodding. He redshirted as a freshman, switched to cornerback, battled injuries, and excelled as a starter. He led Iowa with three interceptions and nine pass breakups last season, excelling in zone coverage. He hopes to join a decorated list of overlooked Iowa defensive backs in the NFL, including Desmond King, Amani Hooker and Micah Hyde.

"I can’t honestly tell you why. We are playing in the Big 10, we have good competition," Ojemudia said. "I just know we are really well coached, very versatile, and can play all five positions on the back end."

Ojemudia turned his ascension in college into this opportunity. Now, for this car lover, it's time to turn the keys to the ignition.

"A lot of Broncos fans don't know too much about me. But when they see the practice and games, they are definitely going to see someone who fights for the ball in every situation," Ojemudia said. "You are going to get a gritty guy, an ultimate competitor."