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Love of the game led versatile Browns LB Emmanuel Ogbah from soccer to football

To the Browns, Emmanuel Ogbah is a second-round draft pick whose big frame and quick feet make him unusually good at chasing after quarterbacks.

To his extended family in Nigeria, they know him as something else.

"First of all, they don't know what football is," Ogbah said, laughing. "They just know I'm a professional athlete."

And in Nigeria — like many parts of the world — the first sport that comes to mind is soccer.

"That's what they know about when it comes to being a professional athlete," Ogbah said. "But they're very supportive, very happy for me, they just hope I go out there and do my thing like I usually do."

So it makes sense when Ogbah — meeting with the local media Friday to preview rookie minicamp — explained how he started out as a soccer player in the seventh grade before a love for the game led him to football.

"I was a very aggressive soccer player," Ogbah said, smiling as if he were stating the obvious. "I was a defender and I also played goalie at times, too. I liked to attack. Even though I wasn't as fast when I was younger, I was a defender so I did my best to protect the goalie."

That hard-nosed approach didn't always pay dividends, though.

"I'll make this short: I racked up a lot of cards because, like I said, I was very aggressive," Ogbah said. "That's why I knew soccer probably wasn't the place because I'd probably be out for most of the game."

Ogbah said he nagged at his apprehensive parents to join the football team. "I talked to them like 'I love this game, I want to play this game' and they said 'Emmanuel, no, we don't want you playing this game.' I had to listen to them, then they started getting lenient to it," he said. "They said as long as your grades and you're getting your schoolwork done, then you can play."

Nowadays, Ogbah isn't much of a soccer fan but he'll watch it with his father when he's back home in Houston. And after all, he currently finds himself in a new city (Cleveland) learning a new position (linebacker) in a new defensive scheme under Ray Horton.

The Browns kickstarted the 2016 NFL Draft's second round Friday by selecting Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah with the No. 32 pick.

Those soccer days, however, might have been something of a harbinger for Ogbah's versatility, a skill that made him one of the more coveted defensive players in this year's draft.

"What seems exciting about it: I get to rush, that's what I love to do. I get to go get the quarterback. They say 'Go!" and I get the quarterback whenever I can. That's what I love about this defense," he said. "And I get to drop back and get interceptions, and that's what I didn't get in college so I'm looking forward to the interceptions."

It'll all come in time for Ogbah, who didn't imagine football would ever take him this far when he hung up the soccer cleats for shoulder pads.

"At that time, I didn't know, I didn't think about going to the NFL," he said. "I just said, 'l love this game, I love playing this game.'"​

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