By Leighah Beausoleil
Joshua Onujiogu, a senior health and wellness major, had more than pre-graduation jitters leading up to the end of the semester.
Onujiogu, a defensive end on the Framingham State football team, had been preparing for his biggest dream to come true and it all started on his “Pro Day” March 22.
Since then, Framingham State has heard nothing but buzz - everyone wondering where Onujiogu might end up by the end of the National Football League (NFL) Draft.
Prior to the draft, Onujiogu had the opportunity to visit the New England Patriots and spend the day working out with them and other prospective players.
“There were eight people in total, and it was just a basic workout to evaluate the top prospects in the area,” Onujiogu said.
He added though being a prospective player for the Patriots was exciting in itself, “I was more excited by the fact that I've never been to a facility like that. So it was exciting to see my heroes growing up, playing, and actually got to see what they were seeing.”
Along with the Patriots, the Houston Texans were also interested in him as a potential player, according to D3Football.com.
Onujiogu said there are two professional football players who stand out to him as role models: Von Miller of the Buffalo Bills and Khalil Mack of the Los Angeles Chargers.
Since the age of 6, Onujiogu has had a love for football - a trait he inherited from his father.
This is where his dream to play professionally was born.
“It was my only thought when I was playing,” he said. “I wasn't thinking about having fun with my friends or just playing the sport. I knew that every time I stepped on the football field was to get to the NFL.”
Now, those dreams have begun to come true.
Onujiogu was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Seattle Seahawks, according to D3Football.com.
Only two NCAA Division III student athletes were contracted by the NFL this year, according to the website.
“It feels amazing,” Onujiogu said of being signed. “But now, there's a whole new chapter of goals and objectives that have to be met.
“I had a feeling that I was going to get signed to Seattle,” he said. “I was at my house with my family, and it was just a really nice moment to spend with my family.”
He added his family is “just very proud. They were happy that I'm fulfilling my dream and I got to my dream despite all the obstacles I had to go through.
“They were very happy for me,” Onujiogu said.
Tom Kelley, athletic director and head football coach, said he is “excited” for Onujiogu.
“I was hoping he was going to get drafted, but this is the next best thing,” he said. “He could pretty much pick what team he wants to go to - I mean as an agent.
“I think it's sometimes a little bit better that you get a choice of where you're going,” Kelley added. “I hope and pray that he does as well.”
Kelley said he knew Onujiogu had professional potential since 2019.
He explained a senior that year was attracting attention from the NFL.
“All 32 teams came to our practice,” he said. “We certainly were promoting a tight end at the time [but] … we kind of presented Josh along with [him].”
Kelley said despite the COVID-19 pandemic, where there were two years Onujiogu “didn't have really active football - he persevered. He worked real hard during that time.”
Onujiogu said playing at Framingham State was “fun because I got to play since freshman year.”
He added, “I made a lot of memories there - Framingham State will always be in my heart.”
On joining the Seahawks, Onujiogu said, “It's just a great opportunity for me to lead off for my next chapter, and I understand that there's going to be a lot of obstacles that I'm going to have to overcome still as an adult with a career like this.
“Go Seahawks!” he added.
Kelley said, “I can't tell you how proud I am - proud of the program, but more importantly, for him. It's about him right now. It's not about us.
“He's worked as hard as anybody we've ever had in our program, and I've been here since Day One,” he said. “He’s as good as any of them and probably better.
He added, “He's a better person than he is a football player, so not enough good things are going to happen to this young man.”