By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - One of the best things about covering the Iowa football team besides the unlimited popcorn and soda in the Kinnick Stadium press box on game day is getting to know the players.
Each one has a story to tell that stretches beyond the football field.
It is easy to forget sometimes that being an Iowa football player involves a lot more than just being an Iowa football player.
So I’d like to thank Iowa defensive back Michael Ojemudia for reminding me of that.
Ojemudia was among a select number of Iowa players who attended the weekly press conference on Tuesday at the request of the media.
He is a hot topic right now as the replacement for former All-America cornerback Josh Jackson.
And so far, the 6-foot-1, 199-pound Ojemudia has been up to the task with seven tackles and one pass break-up heading into Saturday’s game against Northern Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.
But I was more interested in something Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz had said recently about Ojemudia having earned a B-plus in a test for a course in thermal dynamics.
I told Ojemudia what Ferentz had said, and joked about having no clue what thermal dynamics meant, although, sadly, I wasn’t joking because I didn’t have a clue. I figured it had something to do with temperature, but that was the extent of my knowledge.
“It’s complicated stuff,” Ojemudia said. “But it’s kind of like engines and turbines and all of that stuff. That’s what that class was.”
Ojemudia is taking the class as part of his major in mechanical engineering.
When he isn’t thinking about football or academics, Ojemudia probably is thinking about his other passion, which is cars.
It makes sense that Ojemudia would be interested in cars, considering he grew up in Michigan where the automobile industry has been a primary source of income for over a century.
His father, Dennis Ojemudia also worked as a designer for the Ford Motor Company and now serves as an inspiration for his son, who proudly drives a Ford automobile like everybody else in his family.
“It’s genetics,” Ojemudia said.
Ojemudia treats his role as an Iowa football player as a job. In fact, that’s what he called it on Tuesday.
Ojemudia hopes to play in the NFL after college, but the Farmington Hills, Mich., native also wants to design cars and engines for cars and whatever else might come up that is related to cars.
"I want to play in the NFL, but I’ve always been interested in cars,” Ojemudia said. “So I just want to work for a car company. If after I make it to the NFL, that’s what I want to do.”
Ojemudia still has to improve for a chance to play in the NFL, and he knows that. But he has certainly put himself in position to achieve that goal by becoming a starter for the Hawkeyes as a junior.
Ojemudia knows that anything is possible after watching Josh Jackson rise from being a reserve cornerback in 2016 to a unanimous first-team All-America selection last season.
Jackson is now a rookie with the Green Bay Packers after being selected in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Ojemudia watched how meticulous and persistent Jackson was in his game preparation, and Ojemudia realized that he had to take it up a notch.
“My preparation wasn’t as good as it is right now,” Ojemudia said. “Right now, it’s like a job for me. It’s like a business for me. So that’s why I’m trying to get my hours up in the film room.”
Ferentz wants his players to treat it like a business because Ferentz believes it will help them not only on the playing field, but later in life.
Ferentz has had guest speakers, including long-time NFL assistant coach and former Iowa quarterback Tom Moore, talk to his players about the importance of being organized and having a detailed plan for success.
“We talk to our guys a lot about that,” Ferentz said Tuesday. “In fact, Tom Moore, used that term to our players about you are your own business, and how you choose to run your business is going to determine if you're a business of value or not.
“A player’s job is to bring value to a team. But yeah, we talk to our players all the time constantly about routine because they just have so many things on their plate from a lot of different standpoints, and we hold them to a pretty high standard from a citizenship standpoint, academic standpoint, and then obviously we want them to go out and play winning football. And you just can't do it if you're not somewhat organized.”
Ojemudia definitely has a plan for success and seems to be excelling in all of the areas that Ferentz mentioned. Ojemudia said he tries to study football-related film for at least three hours a day.
So when does he have time to study thermal dynamics and all of his other classes?
“I always get that done before football,” Ojemudia said. “It is hard. But there are enough hours in the day.
“Your social life kind of dwindles a little bit. But it’s even better when you get all of your work done. It’s just more gratifying because you have time do other stuff now.”
Ferentz tells his players that the sacrifices they make as student-athletes will benefit them as adults.
“I think it's great training for guys when they leave here,” Ferentz said. “I think they're prepared to do things like have a real job maybe, be a good spouse and raise their kids, that type of stuff.
“It's good training, but it's hard, and if you're not really organized, and typically it's like our older guys know how to watch film better than younger guys, and our older guys know how to manage their time a little bit better. You're young. You're invincible. But at some point, you're going to break down or not maximize your abilities if you're not really organized.”