Determination led Obum Gwacham to his dream


Years before being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, Obum Gwacham spent weekends watching football with his brother and cousin.

“I couldn’t get enough of it. I knew it was the life I wanted,” Gwacham told me in an interview earlier this week.

He gives his oldest cousin, who played the game in high school and college, credit for getting him interested in football. His brother also played.

“I remember watching my cousin and brother play on Fridays, watch college football all Saturday, then NFL games Sunday.”

Gwacham moved to southern California from Nigeria when he was seven years old. He said he quickly adapted to the culture change, learning about the move just two days prior. He hasn’t been back since but plans to one day.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been over there,” he said.

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“I’ve been waiting for the right moment to head back for a visit since we still have family over there.”

Family is dear to Gwacham’s heart. He says his parents, who worked countless jobs to support their five children, inspire him.

“It has to be one of the most difficult things to do and they provided us all with everything we needed,” he added.

Credit: Susan Ragan-USA TODAY Sports

Their support helped the rookie accomplish his life dream of playing in the NFL.

Gwacham was drafted as the 209th overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft. It’s nearly perfect Seattle selected him, considering it’s just 256 miles from where he played college at Oregon State.

“I loved playing in Corvallis and grew to love Oregon. Washington is a little similar. People in the Northwest are great and the 12s have been extremely welcoming,” Gwacham said.

The 6-foot-5, 248-pound athlete came to Oregon State as a wide receiver. After the urge of a convincing defensive line coach (Joe Seumalo), Gwachum switched to defense for his last year with the Beavers.

He describes one of the more difficult parts about the transition dealt with having to put on weight in a short period of time. But he saw similarites in the positions.

“As a receiver, you’re attacking the defensive back and trying to get around him. The same can be said as a defensive end when the quarterback is throwing the ball. I need to attack an offensive lineman and get around him in order to get in the quarterbacks lane.”

Sure enough, he got to the quarterback. The receiver-turned-linebacker’s four sacks, including two at Hawaii, tied for third on the team. He made 27 tackles and forced a fumble at USC.

Yet Gwachum’s determination as an athlete didn’t stay on the football field. He also competed in track and field and found it helped improve his football game.

“As a high jumper, you’re taught not to have any wasted movements because that decreases your chances of getting over the bar, especially when running the curve,” explained Gwacham.

“When pass rushing, it’s important to be aware of your pass rush lane and each step you take towards it is just as important. False steps will only slow you down and give the offensive lineman enough time to see where you’re heading.”

He continued using these tactics in this year’s Combine, where he ran a 4.72 40-yard dash (third-best among defensive linemen) and jumped a 36-inch vertical jump (sixth-best) and 121-inch broad jump (third-best).

Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

An source describes Gwacham as someone who “is going to blow some people away with his explosion numbers.”

Gwachum’s newness to the defensive scheme is exactly what the Seahawks need. He hasn’t developed habits, allowing the team to mold him into the player it wants. The rookie couldn’t have asked for a better defensive line as a mentor.

“It truly is a dream come true,” he said.

“I don’t think it will sink in until the first game in Century Link where I’ll be suited and ready to help our team win.”

He’s received a lot of advice from “just about everyone.” While he welcomes it all, Gwacham realizes it truly all comes down to showing up and remembering that it’s football.

“There are always going to be guys faster, stronger, more athletic, but my effort will be what differentiates me from them,” he said.

Come game day Gwacham will put his feet up against a wall and listen to music as he awaits running out onto his new home turf. It’s something he does before every game.

As for the 12s, Gwacham has one thing he says they should expect from him:  a player who plays with relentless effort.

“They should also expect someone that will be having a lot of fun with his teammates while we’re all making plays on the field,” he added.

Next: Fantasy Focus: Seahawks Tight Ends