Former "spur " linebacker Jacob Onyechi starred at Air Force's Pro Day in 2017, recording a 40-inch vertical leap and a 4.41-second 40-yard dash.
He has twice attended minicamps with the Green Bay Packers and once with the Atlanta Falcons in the time since, while also serving as a testing officer at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He is now engaged to another Air Force graduate and former Falcons rugby player Funmi Akinlosotu.
The Gazette featured Onyechi in a story in August.
Onyechi, who will join Jalen Robinette, Weston Steelhammer and Ryan Watson from his class at Pro Day at the academy on Monday, recently chatted with The Gazette's Brent Briggeman.
Q: What’s the latest in your process now?
The latest is I’ve been working out, keeping myself in shape. Going to Pro Day is really like starting the whole recruiting process over again. I still have some connections that I’ve had over the past years, but really it’s like trying out all over again, going back to senior year at the academy and with teams knowing that I’ll be able to play. But almost starting that process from square one, but not completely.
Q: Are you still in contact with the teams you’ve been the camp with (the Packers twice and Falcons), or is it really back to square one?
I still have those contacts. It’s really been a dead period, as I expected. I still have those contacts, and I signed with an agent recently. It’s almost like starting from square one and hopefully things will shake out well here in the next couple of months.
Q: Picking an agent, did you put a lot of study into that to find somebody who would be able to get your name out?
I did. It was actually a friend of someone I played with at the academy. After looking into them and learning what they’re all about. I felt a lot better about them than the one I had previously.
Q: What are you looking for from an agent?
Really, kind of someone who knows the process and can kind of guide me through it. It’s actually two guys working with me. Dr. (Lynn) Lashbrook is actually teaching a bunch of agents. He has an organization that teaches agents. So, him taking on the challenge is kind of unconventional. But people that kind of guide me through the process and get me more exposure than I would be able to get for myself. It’s Dr. Lashbrook, who is based out of Portland, Ore., and Keith Hamilton.
Q: Why would you come back to Air Force for the combine? Do you worry about the impact of the altitude at all?
I was actually weighing whether I should do it over here (in Florida), or at Air Force. At the end of the day, I like going back to where it all started and being around coaches and people who could speak to what I was able to do up there and my work ethic and everything. And not being put kind of on the back burner at another school that doesn’t necessarily know me. At the end of the day I kind of weighed those options, and doing it with a homefield advantage was the best option.
Q: With the paperwork and getting out of active-duty status, is that hinging on having a contract or is it more of a leap of faith?
All I know is we’ll be eligible on the two-year mark, which is May 24. Basically what I can say with that that May 24 mark, we should be good to go. We have some leave saved up to go to camps and team events before that, but at that May 24 mark we should be good to go.
Q: Because guys like Ben Garland and Chad Hall have gone this route before, is this a little easier to deal with as opposed to what happened during and after the draft because that was so unprecedented?
I would say it’s been kind of relieving to move on from the uncertainty and kind of knowing where we stand and what are are able to do. We all kind of have a goal and date set, so it has been a lot easier to focus in and hone in on that opportunity.
Q: Now that you’re going to be a married man, soon, is there hesitancy to give up the stability of the Air Force job to pursue this?
There is hesitancy, and that ends up playing into the equation of what my plans are going to be because it ends up not just being me, but my future wife who will be affected as well. But she’s 100 percent behind me. We’ve been apart for a while now. She graduated a year behind me at the academy, so we’ve been apart then and when she went to tech school we were apart. And there’s a chance that she’ll be deploying, too. So we’re not strangers from being apart from each other and she is 100 percent behind me, even if I have to go during the season and come back during the offseason. So we’re kind of planning for it; kind of bracing for it. So it doesn’t really affect my decision-making too much. (She’s serving as a maintenance officer about 20 minutes from Eglin).
Q: How do you think you compare physically to where you were two years ago when you first went through the Pro Day process?
I feel like I’m improving physically. I know I’m kind of healed. Athletically, I don’t think there’s been any drop at all. It’s hard to say until you get to that point. When I went to the practice camp a year ago I had those thoughts of, am I still athletic enough? Am I going to be able to do it? And when I actually go there, I felt really good and I was able to move really well. I really think athletically I’m only getting better, but we’ll be able to test that theory at Pro Day and then hopefully at camps, too. I’ve definitely been working out and doing what I can to keep it up.
Q: Will it be nice to have an agent to do some of the talking for you, unlike last time at Pro Day when you didn’t have someone to kind of lobby on your behalf?
At the end of the day there’s only so much an agent can do. I know my biggest promotion is going to be how I’m able to perform. So I have that in mind as well.
Q: Are there ways you’ve grown over the past two years that might make you a better prospect now than you were in the spring of 2017?
Oh, for sure. Me, really just growing as a man and learning how to take care of myself and different things I’ve been able to do in my community and just being a leader and an officer in the Air Force; all these are things that I think will factor into how I’ll be able to represent the Air Force and represent the NFL and represent everything I stand for. I really do feel like these two years that I’ve been away I’ve been able to prepare myself in ways I wouldn’t have been able to do.
Q: Has the intensity in your workouts increased as you’ve been getting closer?
I’ve been constantly preparing, constantly working out. Once I got to the New Year and January hit, it was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is coming up.’ I’d been anticipating it for so long, but it feels like it’s too good to be true after the year and a half I had been in the Air Force. It’s starting to get more and more real.
Q: Do you have a wedding date set yet?
We’re still working that out. That’s a whole new world.