Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is done feeling sorry for himself. That hurdle on his path back to the football field was cleared shortly after he discovered just how seriously he'd injured his knee.
The same goes for what Ekpre-Olomu experienced this past weekend. A projected first- or second-round talent before his college career ended, Ekpre-Olomu waited and waited until he received a phone call from the Browns late Saturday afternoon. He would be their 12th and final pick of the 2015 NFL Draft (241st overall) because they believed he would bounce back in a fashion many believed he wouldn't.
Ekpre-Olomu's daily goal centers on taking one step closer to proving his new team right.
"You could say that it's a little discouraging but at the same time, I know my circumstance," Ekpre-Olomu said Wednesday on a conference call. "I feel like it doesn't really matter where you start, it matters what you do from there and how you finish. I'm too worried where I was drafted. I'm happy I'm with the Browns now. They are the team that put their faith in me."
There's no rush from the Browns, and Ekpre-Olomu understands there's still plenty to do before he's cleared to play, but he's been encouraged by the progress so far.
It's been close to six months since the former Oregon cornerback tore his ACL and dislocated his knee in a non-contact portion of practice leading up to the Ducks' showdown with Florida State in the College Football Playoff national semifinal. He estimated he was about four months from returning to full capacity but acknowledged doctors would have the final say on when he's truly ready.
Ekpre-Olomu's rehab entails three and a half hours of his time per day, five days a week at a facility in his native Los Angeles. When the pain throbs and sweat pours into his eyes, Ekpre-Olomu's motivation centers on those who didn't carry the same opinion as the Browns did of his future prospects.
"People doubting you thinking you're not going to be able to come back and play, you're not going to be at the level you once were. I think that's really what motivates you every day," Ekpre-Olomu said. "You know what you're capable of doing. I know how my body feels. You just have to ready to take it day by day and that's really given me that motivation every day I wake up.
"Just forget about what happened and what's going to happen the next day and just focus on what I can improve today."
The Browns hosted Ekpre-Olomu on a visit before the draft and laid out their plan for him. When he's ready, they see him as a player with first- or second-round talent who can help the defense and special teams. Ekpre-Olomu said it was stressed to him that he wouldn't be rushed into action and would only be back on the field when he was deemed 100 percent.
Browns coach Mike Pettine called Ekpre-Olomu an "investment."
"Just when you get around the kid, he's charismatic, he's all about football, he's one of us," Browns defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil said. "You just knew right away if there's somebody who can come back even stronger from the injury he had in bowl practices, it's that kid. For us to be able to get him with our last pick, he's a guy that without the injury probably goes in the first round was huge."
Ekpre-Olomu's college resume matches his fellow members of the Browns' 2015 draft class. He was named to the All-Pac-12 first team in each of the three seasons in which he was a starter and garnered third-team All-American recognition as a sophomore and junior before he was named a consensus first-team All-American in 2014. As his college career progressed, the targets toward his part of the field steadily declined.
The opportunity was there for Ekpre-Olomu to enter the 2014 NFL Draft as an underclassman, but he opted to return to Oregon in order to compete for a national championship and earn his degree. What's happened since the injury hasn't spawned any regrets.
"The injury was unfortunate, but that's what happens when you play football," Ekpre-Olomu said. "There's a chance for injury and that's why you have to cherish every opportunity you have on the field."