This NFL Lineman Used to Hate Exercise

By | May 9, 2019

Larry Ogunjobi, 23, was always big for his age, but when his weight climbed to 350 pounds during his freshman year of high school, his parents knew they had to step in. First, they hid Larry’s Xbox from him—then, they enlisted the help of Robert Mitchell, a weight loss coach.

“When my coach and I first started training, I didn’t understand the concept of commitment and consistency. He would wake me up on Saturday morning at 9 AM—the one day you get to sleep in. I’d be in the bed rolling over, like, coughing, and saying ‘I don’t feel good,’ but my mom would make me go,” he says. “I didn’t like any of it at all. As a kid, you don’t understand what your parents are trying to do. You think they hate you and they’re mad at you.

Despite the rough start, Larry lost about 20 pounds. On a car ride with Robert, “he told me that we were stopping by the high school, and I remember thinking, for what?” Larry recalls. “It was summer, and there was no school. And then he was like, ‘You’re going to play football.’ And I was like, ‘No way. My mom and dad hired him to help me lose weight and that was it. Football wasn’t part of the deal. We got into an argument about it in the car.”

Undeterred, Robert requested a permission slip from the high school’s front office, which Larry’s mom promptly signed. The following Saturday, Larry was on the football field. “I tapped out after four sprints,” he says. “The next day, the coach came to see if I was still there, and I remember thinking yeah, I’m still here, but only because I have to be.”

He finished his sophomore year on the JV squad as the only noseguard to start from a two-point stance. (“I couldn’t bend over—my upper body couldn’t support my weight.”) But his coaches were impressed. At the end-of-the-year banquet, they awarded him the most improved “baby” player on the team. “I was shocked,” Larry says. “That was the first time in my life where I felt like I earned something that I really worked for.”

Taking the weight off

“I asked my coach right after the season exactly what I would have to do to get recruited by colleges. He told me I had to get faster, stronger, and perfect my technique,” he says. So every day after practice, Larry went to the YMCA. At first, he ran a half mile on the treadmill, then biked 5 miles; eventually, he was running two miles without stopping and biking 15. “I cut soda and juice, which really helped a lot. My body composition started changing, and I went into my junior year at 247 pounds,” he says. “I dropped so much weight that my coach kind of got mad at me. He was like, ‘Are you trying to play DB now?’ So I had to put some weight back on.”

Larry graduated high school with five offers from colleges, but his pick—the University of North Carolina at Charlotte—surprised everyone. “It was a start-up program, and [the team] was redshirted for the first year,” he says. “There was a lot of negativity from some people, who told me that I’d never get drafted by the NFL. But for me, ignorance was bliss. Football was still fresh to me, so I just wanted to learn more and get better. I told myself that if the NFL wanted me to play for them, they would find me.” During the next three years of college, Larry started in all 46 games.

After graduating from Charlotte—and setting school records for sacks, losses, and tackles—the NFL took notice: Larry was chosen in the third round in the 2017 NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns. At 6’2”, he’s now down to 12 percent body fat, even at 300 pounds.

Focus on meals, not snacks

Today, he eats clean, even shunning the strawberry milkshake pop-tarts he loved as a kid. When he recently got a box of them, “I could only eat one because I was having flashbacks and I didn’t want to relapse,” he says. Instead, he has his meals pre-prepared and sent from California, where he trained in the off-season. “I found a really good chef that takes care of me, he freezes my meals and overnights them, and it’s really clean food like vegetables, whole grains, and chicken or ground turkey,” he says.

He focuses his attention on healthy meals and he controls his snacks. “I used to be a really big snacker, like I could finish a whole bag of trail mix in one sitting,” he says. “But I learned that if I wanted to have abs and look a certain way and feel better, it’s not about having anything you want; it’s understanding that you need to have discipline to stay on track.”

“I was never the star athlete,” he says. “But I was able to do these things by working really hard and training and doing the right things. My story is that if you want it, you can do it, too.”

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