Before he became a big-time college football standout at Penn State, Amani Oruwariye could be seen locking down wide receivers on Friday nights at Ron Allen Field at Gaither High School.
Now, Oruwariye is advancing on to the sport’s biggest stage — the National Football League (NFL).
The Penn State defensive back and 2014 Gaither graduate was selected in the fifth round (146th overall) by the Detroit Lions in the 2019 NFL Draft, which wrapped up on April 27.
Oruwariye joins the latest in a growing line of Gaither products to be drafted into the NFL.
He’s also the second athlete drafted from the local high school in as many years.
Former Gaither/Florida International University quarterback Alex McGough was selected in the seventh round by the Seattle Seahawks in last year’s NFL Draft.
As a fifth-round choice, Oruwariye is believed to be the local high school’s highest NFL draftee.
Other known Gaither alums drafted into the NFL include J.R. Russell (seventh round in 2005) and Carlton Mitchell (sixth round in 2010). Current Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Anthony Chickillo (sixth round in 2015) attended Gaither his freshman and sophomore years before transferring to Alonso High School.
Oruwariye was a three-year letterman at Gaither under former head coach Jason Stokes, and finished his career with 121 tackles and 12 interceptions. His senior year he was named team MVP, earned first-team all-district honors and was invited to play in the Hillsborough County All-Star Game. Various recruiting services ranked him a three-star prospect and top 100 recruit in the state of Florida.
Oruwariye lived up to that billing and more at the Division I FBS college ranks.
After redshirting his freshman season at Penn State, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound defensive back went on to play in 48 career games and develop into a two-time All-Big Ten Conference selection.
He tallied eight career interceptions, 20 pass breakups and 108 total tackles in his Penn State career.
His best season came in 2018 as a redshirt senior — leading the Nittany Lions with 12 pass breakups and tied for the team lead with three interceptions, to go along with 51 tackles (two for loss) in 13 starts.
The yearlong performance earned him first team all-conference honors and a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the top defensive back in college football.
The 23-year-old Oruwariye was initially projected by many draft experts to go higher in the draft, given his combination of size, length, athleticism and production at the cornerback position, to go along with an impressive showing at the NFL combine that saw him post a 4.47 40-yard dash, 36.5-inch vertical jump, 16 reps on the 225-pound bench press and 10 feet in the standing broad jump.
In a media conference call following his selection, Oruwariye highlighted his physical gifts, which he figures to translate to the sport’s most competitive level.
“(My size) just allows me to match up with bigger receivers,” Oruwariye said. “It allows me to use my body to my abilities and really dominate at the line of scrimmage, and go up with receivers and make plays on the ball. There’s a lot of strengths that my size brings, and I’m hoping to implement them into my game.”
Although he wasn’t selected as early as anticipated, Oruwariye said he was happy to be given an opportunity, but still is out to prove wrong the other NFL organizations that passed on him.
Oruwariye put it like this: “I knew my time would come, my opportunity would come, so I’m not going to sit there and dwell on what didn’t happen and what should’ve happened. I’m just going to make the other 31 teams that didn’t draft me pay when my opportunity comes and just hold my standard. I’m going to work hard regardless of where I’m picked. It doesn’t matter what day, when, where — I’m going to work hard. That’s just how I am, that’s my standard.”
Oruwariye is expected to report to the Lions three-day rookie minicamp, which runs May 12 through May 14.
He is expected to sign a multiyear contract worth nearly $3 million in total value.
Published May 08, 2019