Houston Texans rookie Duke Ejiofor never thought he'd be drafted by his hometown team, but since being picked in the sixth round of the 2018 draft and making his debut in week two, he's made the most of his homegrown opportunity.
The Nigerian-American linebacker, drafted out of Wake Forest University, is playing on a team that already possesses a star pass rusher in JJ Watt, so Ejiofor is being brought on slowly by his coaches via Special Teams and selected plays.
The 23-year-old is learning from some of the best in the league at his position while also finding his footing as a professional, though he still enjoys the comforts of home, even if his parents don't quite understand the game he plays.
KweséESPN: Did you have any idea that your hometown NFL team was interested in drafting you?
Ejiofor: I absolutely had no idea. I thought this was the last team I was going to be able to play for. I just never saw myself playing for the team. But I was just ecstatic and excited to come to work.
KweséESPN: What did your family think when the announcement was made that the Texans had selected you?
Ejiofor: They were very excited knowing I'd be staying home and they'd be able to watch my games.
KweséESPN: What did you think when you found out the labrum injury you suffered in college would keep you from the combine, and then began affecting your draft stock?
Ejiofor: It is what it is. Injuries are a part of football. I knew it was going to affect me so I got the surgery the night before the combine so I could be ready for training camp, and fortunately a team took a chance on me and drafted me which I'm so happy about. I'm here now.
KweséESPN: Which pass rushers do you enjoy watching now, as well as when you were still in college?
Ejiofor: I like watching Jason Pierre-Paul, Aldon Smith, Von Miller, all the pass rushers... Whitney [Mercilus], J.J. [Watt], [Jadeveon] Clowney.
KweséESPN: You're known for having a pretty nice variety of pass rush moves for a rookie, how did you develop those?
Ejiofor: I'd say starting off as a pass rusher was natural to me, but as I started to get more deep into it I started studying the pass rushers I just mentioned and tried to take their moves and incorporate them to my game.
KweséESPN: You've contributed on special teams as well as getting in the mix at outside linebacker. Did you play special teams in college? Was it an area you knew you wanted to contribute to when you got to the team?
Ejiofor: To be honest, coming in I just wanted to rush the passer and get sacks and stuff, but the coaches instilled in us, all the rookies, that we had to contribute on special teams. So I started taking it day by day to get better at it because I never played special teams in college or high school.
KweséESPN: Did you play other sports in high school or it was always American Football for you?
Ejiofor: I played football, but I didn't play Varsity football until my senior year, whereas most guys play in their sophomore and Junior years. I see myself as a late bloomer, someone who came on the scene late. In freshman year of high school I threw the shot put for track and I tried to play basketball... but I stuck with football.
KweséESPN: Are you living at home with your parents or you live on your own now?
Ejiofor: I'm not in a rush to find a spot right now, I'm trying to save some money here by staying at home.
KweséESPN: Where are your parents from in Nigeria, and have you had the opportunity to visit?
Ejiofor: They're from Imo State. I went when I was about eight or nine with my dad, but haven't gone back since. I plan to go back soon sometime.
KweséESPN: Do your parents understand football?
Ejiofor: My parents are, like, "Go out there and play your best!" They don't understand that much but I think my mom is getting the hang of it . She kind of understands it and when we explain stuff she seems to get it a little bit. She watches it. My dad doesn't really know what's going on but he sees my name and gets happy. Africans, Nigerians they want you to be doctors and lawyers, but when they saw I got a scholarship they said, "Ok, I don't have to pay for your school!"
KweséESPN: What do you do on off-days? Are you watching a game or do you try to stay away from watching the games on television?
Ejiofor: During the week I try to get off my feet and watch film. I probably turn on a football game if there's one on. Most of the time just off my feet knocking off my playbook and watching film.