September 26, 2003
Bloomington, Ind. -Coaches preach over and over that hard work and dedication is the gateway to success both in life and on the football field. Former Hoosier and current Miami Dolphin defensive end Adewale Ogunleye epitomizes that statement . After suffering a season-ending injury just six games into his senior Hoosier season in 1999, Ogunleye has worked his way back to become one of the best pass rushers in the National Football League.
On Tuesday, Sept. 23, Ogunleye was recognized as the American Football Conterence's (AFC) Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in the Dolphins win over the Buffalo Bills. Ogunleye helped lead a defense that held the vaunted Bills' offense to only 118 total yards. The Dolphins' left defensive end finished the game with seven tackles, two sacks and three quarterback pressures. The award is Ogunleye's second of his career as he won the Award last November for his three-sack performance against Baltimore.
The defensive player-of-the-week award is the latest in a career that has seen its peaks and valleys over the last five years. After suffering a knee injury against Northwestern during his senior season, the Staten Island, N.Y., native missed the final five games of the year. Prior to his senior season, Mel Kiper Jr. rated Ogunleye as a first round pick. Ogunleye entered his senior season as a preseason All-American selection by Playboy Magazine, Football Action '99 and www.collegefootballnews.com.
He went undrafted and signed a free agent rookie contract with the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins put him on Reserve/Non-football injury list, where he spent his entire rookie season. He played in seven games in 2001 before starting all 16 games in 2002, while making 9.5 sacks good for 6th in the AFC and 17th in the NFL.
Despite having to work hard to get to this point in his career, Ogunleye has no regrets. "Looking back you wish you could change things and that things were different," he said. "I don't regret the decision I made. I sat down and looked at it logically. Going pro was obviously a big option (as a junior), but I wanted to come back and try to help IU go to a bowl game. Things didn't go the way we wanted, and I got hurt. If I had to do it all over again, I would do the same thing. I worked hard to get where I am, and I just thank God for allowing me the opportunity."
Along with NFL sacks leader Jason Taylor, Ogunleye was part of the most prolific sack tandem in the NFL in 2002. The duo finished with 28 sacks, over five better than their nearest competitors. The duo's sack total was also the third-highest in Dolphins history. From week 12 to week 15, Ogunleye recorded a sack in four straight games, the fourth longest streak in Dolphins' history. Although he is obviously a success in the NFL, Ogunleye feels fortunate for what he received from Indiana.
"I was able to get my degree from Indiana, which was important," the Hoosiers' all-time sacks leader said. "When I came to IU, I wasn't always sure that I was going to be able to play professionally. Indiana does a good job of letting you get your priorities in order. Time management is important, you wake up, lift weights, then go to class after that. You have practice, then study tables and sometimes you have to go work on a project with people. By playing football, I was able to learn that the only way to achieve what you want is through hard work and giving it 120 percent."
Success has been a constant for Ogunleye throughout his college and pro career. He remains the school's all-time leader in sacks (34.5) and tackles for loss (64). Ogunleye was a three-time All-Big Ten honoree in 1997, 1998 and 1999. Despite all his on the field success, Ogunleye's most memorable collegiate moments came off the field.
"First and foremost, the friendships I made are memorable," he said. "The dorm life was good, and it was nice to be away from home. It was a new environment, and it was a very good experience for me."
To find Ogunleye's most memorable moment, you have to look no further than IU's rivalry game against Purdue. He said his fondest football memory was beating Purdue, 33-16, on November 23, 1996. In the game, Ogunleye recorded six tackles, three for loss and 1.5 tackles. He helped seal the Hoosier win with sack of Boilermaker quarterback Rick Trefzger in the end zone for a safety.
Although he is four years removed from collegiate career, Ogunleye will always carry a soft spot in his heart for Bloomington. "I would describe it to someone as one of the most beautiful campuses in the U.S." he said. "In the fall, there is no place better than Bloomington. The atmosphere here is really good. The social life is good, but at the same time academics are important. The teachers are really helpful as well."
Ogunleye had a lot of help along the way, but most of all he had the confidence from within. By working hard and staying dedicated to himself, Ogunleye was able to turn a disaster into a golden opportunity as an NFL starter.