THE OGUNLEYE FILE
BORN Aug. 9, 1977 (Brooklyn)
SIZE 6'4", 260 pounds
KEY STAT AFC-best 15 sacks in '03
Back in April 2000, 254 college players were drafted into the NFL. Indiana's Adewale Ogunleye was not one of them. With three torn knee ligaments, three surgeries and one nasty staph infection during his senior year (he lost 50 pounds), IU's career sack leader went from likely top-10 pick to undrafted free agent. Thanks to fellow Hoosier Keri Wannstedt, who convinced dad Dave to take a flyer on her classmate, Miami inked Ogunleye to a league-minimum contract with a $5,000 signing bonus. Four years later, after fighting through grueling rehab and veteran-infested depth charts, the 260-pound Dolphin was named a starter-in the Pro Bowl. Miami is clearly happy to have the AFC's sack leader. Question is, are they happy enough to keep him?
1 LEARNING CURVE
It's pronounced ad-deh-wah-LEH o-GOON-le-yeh, but teammates call him Wally. Family members call him Mayo (rhymes with Ohio, from middle name Olumayowa). Still others call him Prince because, well, he is one. His grandfather was king of Emure (a Nigerian city near Lagos), and his uncle currently holds the crown. But it's education that rules in the Ogunleye household, so much so that Wally's parents, who moved to the States in 1972, threatened to yank their son off the Tottenville (Staten Island) High football team when his GPA fell below 3.0. Says Tottenville coach Jim Munson, "Wally's always looking to learn." Even in Hawaii, the Pro Bowl rook picked the brains of Richard Seymour and Michael Strahan.
2 OBSTACLE COURSE
Ever since his senior year at Indiana, when those three torn knee ligaments took him from preseason All-America to draft-day spectator, the Big Ten's fifth-all-time-leading sacker has been fighting for respect. After spending all of 2000 rehabbing, Ogunleye led Miami in sacks during the 2001 preseason. His reward? Fourth-string on the depth chart. In 2002, he started only because of injuries to David Bowens and Rob Burnett. "People need to validate their opinion," Ogunleye says. "They're always thinking, 'There's a reason he wasn't drafted.' " The latest propaganda? He gets sacks (25 in 32 career starts) only because O-lines double-team fellow DE Jason Taylor.
3 DEEP DISCOUNT
Following the 2002 season, when he started all 16 games, Ogunleye discovered he had zero bargaining power. Three years in the league would normally qualify him for restricted free agency, but since his rookie season was a wash, Miami still held exclusive rights. Translation? In 2003, the AFC's best sacker got paid a base salary of $375,000, his fourth straight year working for minimum wage. Even after 15 sacks and 73 tackles (most among Miami linemen), some folks still feel the need to qualify Ogunleye's success. "He had a great season," says D-line coach Clarence Brooks. "But it remains to be seen if he'll withstand the test of time." Says agent Drew Rosenhaus, "You don't get 15 sacks on a fluke."
4 ARMY OF ONE
How good is Ogunleye? Ask Peyton Manning. In Week 9, Ogunleye dropped the eventual co-MVP twice. Didn't matter that Indy's line gave up the fewest sacks in the AFC this year (19). What did matter was Ogunleye's second sack. With the Colts up by two points early in the fourth quarter and 15 yards away from another score, Manning dropped back on first and five. Coming off a stunt, with 330-pound guard Steve Sciullo draped on one arm, Ogunleye grabbed the front of Manning's shoulder pads with his other arm and dragged down the 230-pound QB. "Great effort, great technique, and it came when we needed it most," says Brooks. "One of the greatest plays I've ever seen." Too bad the Fish lost anyway.
5 MIXED SIGNALS
You'd think owner Wayne Huizenga would gladly offer a megadeal to keep No. 93 in aqua and orange. Think again. With five players accounting for more than half of Miami's $79M payroll, the outlook for Ogunleye come March 3 (when the free agent signing period begins) remains unclear. The Dolphins could offer another one-year deal, but he probably won't take it. "No financial stability," he says. Or they could do some creative accounting. "The cap is a myth," says Rosenhaus. "If a team wants you, they'll make it work." Among those with dough and D-line trouble are Philly, Seattle and Minnesota. Says Ogunleye, "I'll definitely be making some visits." Not to mention some serious cash.