Local prospects Michael Ojemudia, Luke Juriga, Jayru Campbell pin hopes to NFL Draft
Michael Ojemudia plans to come home to Farmington Hills next week to watch the NFL Draft with his family after remaining in Iowa City to work out while staying safe in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ojemudia, the younger brother of former Michigan defensive end/linebacker Mario Ojemudia, earned third-team Big-Ten honors during his senior year while playing cornerback at Iowa, helping the Hawkeyes to a 10-3 record and Holiday Bowl win over USC.
“I’ve been working out at the local high schools and our strength staff actually set up mini-weight rooms in people’s garages so that’s how we’re staying fit,” Ojemudia said. “I’m going home next week to watch the draft with my family. I hear a lot of things, how coronavirus is pretty hard at Michigan, so I’ll watch it from home with everyone close to me. The NFL teams say they’re going to contact you through facetime or Zoom, that’s how they’ll contact you on draft day.”
Ojemudia learned the game while watching his brother play under legendary coach John Herrington at Farmington Hills Harrison before playing for Herrington at Harrison.
Ojemudia learned the college game from former Michigan State first-team All-Big Ten cornerback Phil Parker, the Hawkeyes’ longtime defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.
Parker helped cornerback Desmond King (Detroit Crockett/East English) become a two-time All-Big Ten first-team performer in 2015 and ’16, including the ’15 season when he was Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, helping the Hawkeyes advance to the Big Ten title game where they lost 16-13 to Michigan State. King was a fifth-round pick of the Chargers in the 2017 draft.
Ojemudia had a strong junior year in 2018 when he had three interceptions while getting in on 39 tackles and breaking up six passes. He followed that with another three interceptions this past fall while breaking up nine passes and getting in on 52 tackles.
Ojemudia opened some eyes at the NFL Scouting Combine, making him a possible Day 2 pick or more like a Day 3 selection.
“Coaches had really high expectations for me and it was a maturing process, so I’m really happy with how things went for me at Iowa,” Ojemudia said. “This year I had a strong year and everything on tape will be watched, so I definitely had a more professional business approach to this year.”
So, has Ojemudia heard of possible teams or where he could be drafted?
“It’s up in the air, but it’s around Day 2, Day 3,” Ojemudia said. “There are teams calling me who are high on me, the Titans, Seahawks, 49ers, Broncos, so I’ve been getting a lot of calls. It’s up in the air with that too.
“I went to the combine and Senior Bowl. The Senior Bowl was a grind, intense. We really got after it in practices and we were really getting coached up. You are up late, wake up early, meetings all day, so it was a grind. The same way with the combine where you’re up late, get up early and have a lot of meetings. It was more exhausting mentally than physically.”
Ojemudia felt he graded out well in a lot of drills.
“Number 1, it’s like the biggest question for DBs is running fast, so I felt I ran fast, had some good drills, had some good jumping and change in direction so I’m proud of what I did at the combine,” said Ojemudia, who ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the combine.
Ojemudia felt he was a step ahead of his class at Iowa due to his preparation under Herrington.
“I played a lot of sports growing up, but I really didn’t start focusing on football until I got to Harrison because it’s such a factory,” Ojemudia said. “When I got to the next level, I was ahead of a lot of guys because of the work ethic and paying attention to little things and details because of how I was coached at Harrison. That really gave me an advantage to where I just accelerated faster than other guys at college.”
And, there’s another cornerback from Michigan who is ready to follow the footsteps of King and Ojemudia at Iowa with former River Rouge standout Daraun McKinney wearing the No. 14 that King made famous several years ago.
Western Michigan had multiple offensive linemen from the days of Bill Cubit drafted with the number continuing to grow under the guidance of P.J. Fleck before he moved on to Minnesota.
Well, Luke Juriga is expected to be the next lineman from the Broncos to be picked, joining the likes of Willie Beaver (Southfield Lathrup, Vikings 4th round 2016), Taylor Moton (Okemos, Panthers 2nd round 2017) and Chukwuma Okorafor (Southfield, Steelers 3rd round 2018). John Keenoy (East Kentwood), who played for Dallas of the XFL, signed a free-agent contract with the Steelers on Thursday.
Juriga had the luxury of starting on the line with Moton, Okorafor and Keenoy on Western’s MAC championship team in 2016, which lost to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.
Juriga is durable, starting all 52 games he played in during his career and playing his first three years at right guard before moving to center his senior year.
Juriga’s father Jim Juriga started at left guard for the Denver Broncos, protecting John Elway in a Super Bowl XXIV loss to the 49ers.
Jim Juriga was a fourth-round pick of the Broncos back in ’86. His son is expected to be a Day 3 pick.
Juriga is staying safe and working hard on his family’s farm in rural Illinois.
“I live on a 20-acre farm in Illinois and I do a lot of work outside, my parents need me to do a lot of heavy lifting, so I do that, and my friend just opened up his own gym and let me use it,” said Juriga Thursday afternoon while trying to catch his breath after running steps. “I even have my Dad do some O Lineman drills with me, so he is coaching me up.
“My dad played for the Broncos. He coached me every year from sixth grade through high school, was the O Line coach in high school. He helped me prepare a lot for college. He’s been through it, so he knows how to get things done, great to have his guidance.”
Juriga wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, but he did participate in the East-West Shrine game. Juriga’s Pro Day at Western was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I had really good feedback from the East-West Shrine game, a lot of the coaches and scouts liked what they saw, felt I did what I needed to,” Juriga said. “The fact that I was at the East-West Shrine game and I have four years of film they can watch, I feel they have a lot they can review.
“A lot of teams are saying they’re going to try and pick me in a late round. I got a call from a scout (Scott DiStefano) from the Broncos this morning, he’s been a scout there for 38 years, was there when my dad was there so that’s pretty cool.”
So, what plans does Juriga have for the NFL Draft?
“I hope to go fishing,” Juriga said.
Quarterback Jayru Campbell led Ferris State to the Division II national title game in 2018, earning the Harlon Hill award, then had another strong season this past fall despite missing several games to injuries.
Campbell said his injuries (left elbow prior to season, foot injury at end) are no longer an issue, displayed by his performance in his personal pro day, which took place a month ago at Oak Park High School. He had his pro day videotaped so NFL coaches and scouts could take a look at his talent since he wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine.
“I have teams that viewed it, looks like half of the teams viewed it or teams have doubled back and watched it again,” Campbell said. “It’s on YouTube and the only viewers who could watch it were NFL scouts.”
When asked what he has been doing to stay in shape, Campbell replied: “I’ve been sneaking out of the house and going to high school fields like Northwestern and Mumford two or three times a week and just working out at home, push-ups, squats and making sure I get good stretches in and watching my diet. This is definitely different than any other time I’ve experienced. I’m just anxious for the draft.”
Campbell led Detroit Cass Tech to consecutive Class A state championships in 2011 and ’12 before getting into trouble — jail time from altercation with school security guard, incident with girlfriend — which put an end to his scholarship with Michigan State and resulted with a long detour which included a stop at Garden City (Kansas) Community College, where he won a national title, and then his three years at Ferris State.