Things aren’t quite back to normal for Michigan defensive lineman David Ojabo, but being quarantined in a North campus dorm for a short time longer knowing he will be reunited with his teammates and back to practice soon has made everything worthwhile.
Ojabo’s story has been well-documented in recent days. He is Nigerian-born, but moved with his family to Scotland in 2007. When on-campus activities were suspended in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March just as spring football practice was about to begin, Ojabo flew home thinking he’d be there a short time. The weeks became months and on July 14 he shared a message on Twitter that he was stuck in Scotland, unable to return to Ann Arbor because of an international travel ban.
He spoke at length to The Detroit News in a story that appeared the next day of his desire to re-join his teammates for voluntary workouts, and less than a week later, on July 20, he arrived in the U.S. Ojabo has to quarantine for two weeks and then will be allowed to join his team that begin preseason practice last Friday.
“It doesn’t feel real,” Ojabo told The Detroit News on Wednesday. "Knowing I’m in the same city, same town as my boys, just knowing in a couple days’ time, I’ll be back with them, I was longing for and complaining about the fact I’m stuck out, and now everything is right in front of me. Time to go to work.”
His interactions since returning to Ann Arbor have been limited.
“One or two (friends) have come by from afar, but besides the coaches that dropped off the weights and our nutritionist who drops off food, I haven’t seen anybody,” Ojabo said. “We’re taking this lockdown pretty seriously.”
Ojabo worked out in Scotland, ate well and stayed in shape, but he said he was a bit behind on strength training, because he had limited options at home. He has made good use of the weights dropped off at his dorm.
“Clearly, I’ve lost muscle weight, but natural runners don’t really lose their strides,” he said. “I see myself as a natural runner, so if we’re talking about it from that standpoint, I’m good. But if we’re talking weight-wise, that’s just life. Lifting weights, you’re trying to maintain or get bigger. It’s time for me to build up my muscle and build up my weight.”
The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Ojabo came to the U.S. to attend Blair Academy, a boarding school in New Jersey, beginning his sophomore year of high school. He played soccer and basketball and ran track. His speed has turned heads and has a 2018 state championship in the 100 meters with a time of 10.93 on his resume. He picked up football for the first time as a junior and was a two-year starting defensive end. Ojabo, named the Wolverines’ defensive scout team player of the year, wants to move into the role Josh Uche played.
He is drawing on the experience from those early days after arriving at boarding school when he was new and didn’t know anyone to get through this quarantine before joining the team.
Ojabo has a quarantine routine.
“Wake up, whip up some eggs, peanut butter sandwich, say my prayers, and kinda sit there for real for a couple of hours, then work out,” Ojabo said, laughing. “I try to do anything that gets me through the day, because there isn’t anything to do when you’re on North campus stuck alone.”
It has been a unusual few months for Ojabo, who relished the time with his family in Scotland. He said for the last fours years, he has barely had a chance to see them, so they all made good use of the extended visit. Then there was the recent adventure to Ann Arbor that took him from Scotland to London to Miami to Detroit a few days after his Twitter S.O.S.
He marvels at his personal story, from Nigeria to Scotland to the U.S. to play soccer and basketball, then emerging as a football player and then this recent chapter featuring a pandemic that separated him thousands of miles from his college and teammates.
“All I say is I’m going to write a book or a movie because the way my life keeps going, up, down, it’s only right I document it somehow,” he said, laughing.
Although there is nothing definitive regarding the upcoming football season, Ojabo said he is ready to pick up where he left off in March.
“I want to get back to playing,” Ojabo said. “Anything that can get me back on that field, we’re having walk-throughs right now and as soon as I get clearance, I’m in those walk-throughs, I’m in those meetings. I can't wait to get back in the mix.”