Devine Ozigbo expected to get drafted.
The former Husker running back was confident he was going to hear his name called at some point during the three-day NFL Draft proceedings that took place Thursday through Saturday last week. He, his family and his friends had a watch party at his old high school in Texas on Saturday to watch.
It was understandably disappointing to go undrafted, but Ozigbo immediately signed an undrafted free agent deal with the New Orleans Saints. As with everything else in recent years, Ozigbo kept a positive mindset about the process, saying everything worked out the way it was supposed to.
Hail Varsity Radio caught up with Ozigbo on Monday for a look inside the draft process, his thoughts on signing with the Saints and how he closed out his Husker career. You can hear the full interview here (begins at the 29:40 mark). The following is the full Q&A, edited for clarity.
HV: Take me through your draft experience. How did you deal with Saturday?
DO: It was definitely one of those stressful days. People that have gone through it before, they told me about it, but you never really understand how it is until you go through it. It was stressful but I feel like how it ended, everything ended the way it was supposed to so I’m happy with it.
HV: How did you deal with the stress?
DO: I was watching the draft at my high school with some of my friends and their parents and my family. Probably to deal with it the best was to just get out of there, walk around, go outside to get some fresh air, just think it through and get a little separation for the group. I felt like it went the best way it could have considering the circumstances.
HV: Tell me about the teams that showed interest in you? Are you surprised about landing in New Orleans?
DO: There was a good amount of teams. I had a bunch of teams calling me before the draft ended, just trying to see what was going on, see who else was in the picture and trying to negotiate. When it came to landing in New Orleans, it was something that was pitched early off in this process, especially with them letting go of Mark Ingram and that role being open and then when they acquired Latavius Murray that was kind of, ‘Ok it’s not as likely but this is still a good situation regardless.’ That was early in this whole situation.
I’m in a great spot and I definitely feel like they gave me a fair deal and a chance and an opportunity to prove myself.
HV: How long did you interview with New Orleans? How much interaction did you have with them?
DO: I talked to them a little bit during the East-West Shrine [Game]. I did my due diligence and talked to most teams there. But they were definitely a team that showed some early interest. Then shortly after my pro day we scheduled a private workout up at the school, so I did that, talked to them a little bit on Pro Day, so it was three significant moments that I had communication with them, I kind of got some late calls from their running back coach more toward the draft and that was pretty much all the communication I had. Then come draft day, they picked me up as a free agent.
HV: So what’s next?
DO: I leave next Thursday, the Thursday after this coming Thursday. So right now I’m just working out, getting my body in football shape so when I get there I don’t miss a beat, can fly right in, learn the offense and play fast.
HV: Take me through your transformation from junior year to senior year under Coach Frost. How did you trim down and tell us about the advice you took to heart from Coach Held and company to get more playing time?
DO: When it came to doing the little things right, that was something they wanted to do. I had to get my body in the best shape and be conditioned enough to do those things at a constant level. Definitely transformed my body in the weight room thanks to Coach [Zach] Duval, and what they put us through helped me transition that to the field. Then once I got to playing fast and I had a pretty good grasp of the offense, I got to really, really play fast.
That was one thing Coach [Scott] Frost and Coach [Ryan] Held always harped on. They wanted guys to go fast, play without thinking, just do your job, and they can coach you if you make a mistake at 100 percent but you’ve got to move at 100 percent. That was one thing I feel like everyone on the team took to. We practiced hard and we practiced fast, and just being able to do that so much, to rep it so much in practice, when it transitioned to the game it was kind of easy to keep that tempo and try and score as many points and make big plays during games because we made it such an emphasis to play that way in practice.
HV: What was the moment of buy-in for you?
DO: I was pretty much on board as soon as I heard there was going to be a switch. Just knowing who Coach Frost was and what he did at UCF, I felt like if he’s the type of guy I’m hearing about and he did that at a school [like UCF], I can trust him.
When they came in, they came in really honest and really fair as far as getting an open shot. And I really appreciated that. As long as they’re being honest and giving everyone a fair shot to go out there and make plays and earn a spot, I was pretty much bought in.
HV: When you got opportunities, you performed, but you didn’t get a ton of opportunities until the new staff came in. Why didn’t you play more before?
DO: Honestly, I asked, I tried to figure it out, they gave me little things to try and correct and even once I corrected those my situation didn’t change so honestly I still don’t know. Other than maybe the fact they just didn’t like how I was fitting the offense, I don’t know what was the reasoning behind it.
But that’s in the past now. I’m focusing on the chance to play in New Orleans.
HV: What do you love about the Saints’ offense?
DO: That it’s the strong one. I know they have multiple sets, they do a lot of things well and they have packages for different types of players that they use in certain situations to the best of their capabilities. Sean Payton and their offensive coordinator, I know they’re going to find ways to get the ball in playmakers hands and create big plays.
HV: What are you bringing to the Saints that you are confident in and what are you excited to learn about when you get to the NFL?
DO: I’m going to be a guy who can do almost everything they ask a running back to do. Whether that’s lining up outside, running the ball, be able to pass-pro well, pick up the offense quick, just do my best to be a leader and be one of the best players I can be on this team. I know it’s a Super Bowl-caliber team so I’m definitely going to strive for that.