Lions rookie cornerback Amani Oruwariye stands tall at first minicamp

By Matt Schoch
The Detroit News

Allen Park -- Amani Oruwariye might not always seem as tall on the practice field as he did this week during minicamp.

After all, future battles with the 6-foot-4 Kenny Golladay and 6-2 Marvin Jones Jr. could knock the Penn State rookie cornerback down to size.

Amani Oruwariye

But with the Lions' leading receivers sidelined with ailments, Oruwariye’s 6-2 frame allowed him to stand tall among a crowded group of Detroit defensive backs.

While his head is higher than most of the other corners, Oruwariye said keeping it down has been a strategy early in his pro career.

“Just keeping your head down and working and listening,” Oruwariye said after Thursday’s final day of the three-day minicamp. “I mean, there’s so much knowledge on this team from all these vets who have been through so many different situations, these coaches who know so much. So all you've got to do is take in all that advice as much as you can, study your playbook and just work hard, keep your head down.”

It was a removal from pointed comments he made after his perceived draft snub, when he noted: "I’m just going to make the other 31 teams that didn't take me pay when my my opportunity comes."

Drafted in the fifth round, Oruwariye fits in with the mold of players head coach Matt Patricia is looking for on defense alongside other oversized picks like linebacker Jahlani Tavai (second round), safety Will Harris (third), defensive end Austin Bryant (fourth) and defensive tackle P.J. Johnson (seventh).

His last name pronounced “O-rue-waar-ee-A,” the 23-year-old Tampa resident joins a secondary currently down three starters from last season: Departed safety Glover Quin and cornerback Nevin Lawson, along with Darius Slay, who sat out minicamp while seeking a new contract.

While Teez Tabor had had an up-and-down offseason as a starter opposite free-agent addition Rashaan Melvin on the outside and Jamal Agnew on the inside, Oruwariye has spent time on the outside with reserve groups.

“I got a lot of quality work in,” he said. “I got to listen and get a lot of advice from these vets, continue to learn the playbook and take advantage of whatever reps I got and just get better every day.”

Oruwariye joined safety Nick Scott, a seventh-round pick for the Los Angeles Rams this season as Nittany Lions draftees, one year after Penn State sent four defensive back to the league in 2018: Safety Troy Apke (fourth round, Washington), safety Marcus Allen (fifth round, Pittsburgh), cornerback Chris Campbell (currently with New Orleans but drafted in the sixth round by Arizona), and cornerback Grant Haley (undrafted and now with the New York Giants).

The older Penn State talent technically kept Oruwariye off the starting group until his senior season, although he was still second-team all-Big Ten as a junior. With eight interceptions over a 38-game college career, Oruwariye graduated with degrees in telecommunications and broadcast journalism.

Oruwariye, an aspiring sports journalist, said he is more in communication with his new teammates these days though as one more week of organized team activities remain in Detroit's offseason program.

While his size could be beneficial against NFC North rivals like fellow Penn State alumnus Allen Robinson of Chicago and Orchard Lake St. Mary’s (6-3), and Minnesota’s Adam Thielen (6-2), Oruwariye said it’s just a foundation, not something to rely on.

“It’s a plus,” he said. “But if you don’t work hard, if you don’t pay attention to the little things -- the details, the technique -- then none of that really matters. So I’m just trying to hone in on that.”

One of 18 Lions on the current 90-man roster from the Big Ten, Oruwariye said he’s comfortable in the north despite all the adjustments of life as a professional.

“I’m just taking it all in,” Oruwariye said. “I’m blessed to be in this state, blessed to be on this team, so I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity.”

Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.