|From 3 varsity games to the NFL: Otah continues unusual journey|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 23 February 2008 13:00|
He expects to play many more than that in the NFL.
The offensive tackle from Pittsburgh could be drafted in the first round less than five years after deciding to focus on football.
As a kid, Otah wanted to be Chris Webber, not Mike Webster. Basketball was his love, and he admired a big man like Webber who could shoot.
Otah played junior varsity football, lining up as a defensive tackle, in ninth and 10th grade. His lone season of varsity and offensive line came his senior year and was cut short by a broken hand.
He didn't have the grades or the experience to attract the interest of any Division I programs. What he had was size, and he got a chance to play at Valley Forge (Pa.) Military Academy.
Within two years, he was the Seaboard Conference's most valuable player and a major-college recruit.
``I just played hard, and I was a big guy, so I was going to play good,'' Otah said Saturday at the NFL scouting combine.
Succeeding at Pitt was a bit more complicated. Valley Forge used zone blocking schemes, which meant he just had to concentrate on a certain area. With the Panthers, he had to learn about defensive schemes, about who to block and when. Within two years, he was an All-Big East first-team selection.
``Jeff is an interesting kid. He probably hasn't played his best football yet,'' Pittsburgh Steelers director of football operations Kevin Colbert said Thursday.
Otah bristles a little at the frequent use of the word ``raw'' to describe him. He's had to improve his technique, of course, but he doesn't consider himself the football novice anymore.
Otah still relies on his basketball experience, which he believes helps him with his footwork.
``Pass blocking is much like playing defense,'' Otah said, ``and I played real good defense when I played basketball, so that crosses over.''