Former Penn State defensive end Jayson Oweh has built up a reputation as one of the nation’s best edge rusher prospects going into the 2021 NFL Draft. Currently expected to be an early-round pick, Oweh has garnered a lot of attention in the lead-up to the draft.
But with this reputation and spotlight, Oweh has a bigger goal in mind — to carry his Nigerian heritage to the next level.
“I’m fortunate to be over here and really reap the benefits of being an American and having the opportunity,” Oweh said on Glenn Clark Radio April 16, “But I can’t see that for everybody in Nigeria, and I just want to give them an opportunity to showcase and display all their talents.”
While the 6-foot-5, 252-pound Oweh grew up in New Jersey, his parents both grew up in Nigeria. His father, Henry, was born in Nigeria and his mother, Tania, moved there at the age of 7. As a result, Oweh has a lot of ties to Nigeria and still has family living there today.
The Nigerian footprint in the NFL is not huge, but some notable past and current players — such as Osi Umenyiora, Russell Okung, Emmanuel Ogbah and Nelson Agholor — have ties to Nigeria. Given his connection with Nigeria, Oweh hopes to join that group in showcasing what Nigeria has to offer.
“There’s so much talent over there,” Oweh said. “There [are] so many hidden gems and I was given this opportunity and I want to just showcase that [and] be able to give everyone in Nigeria the opportunity.”
After being named a first-team All-Mid-Atlantic Prep League selection at Blair Academy in Blairstown N.J., as a senior in 2017, Oweh went on to play at Penn State, a program with a long track record of success — especially in the front seven. The likes of Jack Ham, Tamba Hali, Cameron Wake and LaVar Arrington have donned the blue and white.
The legacy these greats have created may be intimidating for some, but for Oweh, it was an honor being part of yet another rich culture and environment.
“It’s inspiring, if anything,” Oweh said. “You know that you’re in the presence of so many past greats and future greats as well. So it makes you want to raise your level of play.”
The defensive end lived up to the expectations at Penn State, racking up 63 tackles, seven sacks and two forced fumbles during his three years in State College, Pa. (2018-2020). Though he was named first-team All-Big Ten by the conference’s coaches in 2020, he didn’t record a sack in seven games during the pandemic-shortened season.
Regardless of the outcome of the 2020 season, Oweh isn’t dwelling on those results.
“It would have been an easy answer for me just to be like, ‘Aw yeah, it’s disappointing. I wish things were like that,’ but [the 2020 season] put me in a great situation, just to work on my game,” Oweh said. “I know exactly what I need to work on to be that sack artist … and I love to prove the doubters wrong.”
Coming from a program with such a storied defensive history such as Penn State, Oweh could fit right in with the culture of the Ravens’ defense as well — and that’s something that appeals to Oweh.
“It’s just tough nosed,” Oweh said. “[The Ravens] fly around and when they have the ability to be disruptive, they really are disruptive. And I feel like our game suits exactly what [the Ravens] are trying to do.”
The Ravens are also in desperate need of a some pass rush help after losing Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue to free agency. As a matter of fact, in Walter Football’s latest mock draft, the Ravens take the former Nittany Lion with the 27th overall pick in the first round.
Oweh would welcome the opportunity to play in Baltimore, which isn’t far from Penn State or his hometown in New Jersey.
“I’ve been around this area for so long, so it’s kind of like the school I went through,” Oweh said. “There’s just so many DMV people [at Penn State] as well. So I feel like it’s the next connection. I feel like it could possibly happen.”
For more from Oweh, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Penn State Athletics