IOWA CITY – Michael Ojemudia has designs on more than crafting a successful season at cornerback for the Iowa football team.
The junior is driven and focused when it comes to both his starting role and his work as a mechanical engineering major he hopes will one day lead him to an opportunity to follow his father’s footsteps as designer for the Ford Motor Company.
“When it comes to football and life, he’s got it together,’’ cornerback Matt Hankins said. “When you play cornerback at Iowa, there are a lot of expectations. Desmond King. Josh Jackson. You want to play at the level that they did. That’s what I’m working toward. That’s what he’s working toward. The bar here is set high.’’
Ojemudia is good with that.
He watched how Jackson prepared a year ago, embracing the chance as a first-year starter and eventually leading the nation in interceptions before taking his game to the NFL, where he is now contributing as a rookie for the Green Bay Packers.
“You see that,’’ Ojemudia said. "You understand what he put into it and how hard he worked every day. It is motivation. Playing in the NFL, that’s something I’d like to do, but it starts here with how I prepare and the work that I put into becoming the best player I can be.’’
Ojemudia is expected to make the sixth start of his career Saturday when the Hawkeyes host Northern Iowa at 6:30 p.m., Iowa’s final tune-up before the start of Big Ten play.
The starting right cornerback sees it as a chance to build on the defensive work the Hawkeyes have put together during a 2-0 start to the season.
“We’re off to a decent start. We can play better and we need to,’’ Ojemudia said. “But, we’ve been able to go out for the most part and follow the plan and do our jobs. That is what it is about every week, preparing the right way during the week so we are in a position to play at a high level on Saturday.’’
For Ojemudia, that involves more than a quick film study.
“Cornerback here is an entirely different job than it is at other places,’’ Ojemudia said. “We have roles in the run game, too. It’s our job to keep everything contained and force the action inside. That makes it easier for everybody.’’
Ojemudia understands that now more than ever, and after watching Jackson thrive last season, he has ramped up his own commitment to getting game-ready each week.
“My preparation wasn’t as good as it is right now,’’ Ojemudia said. “Right now, it’s like a job to me. It’s like a business, so that’s why I’m trying to get my hours up in the film room. I saw how it really made a difference last year for Jackson.’’
That level of commitment and organization doesn’t surprise coach Kirk Ferentz.
Former Hawkeye quarterback and longtime NFL assistant coach Tom Moore is among speakers who have talked with the team and his words centered on organization and creating a plan for success.
He encouraged Iowa players to approach the sport as they would approach being successful at a job or in the business world.
“The players’ job is to bring value to a team. We talk to our players all the time about routine because they have so many things on their plate from a lot of different standpoints,’’ Ferentz said.
“We hold them to a pretty high standard from a citizenship standpoint, academic standpoint and then obviously we want them to go out and play winning football. You just can’t do that if you’re not somewhat organized.’’
Ojemudia has his a plan, carving out three hours each day to study tape to help prepare him for the next opponent on the Hawkeyes’ schedule.
That time comes after he fulfills academic commitments for the day, embracing the rigorous curriculum that accompanies being a mechanical engineering major.
“It’s hard, but there are enough hours in the day,’’ Ojemudia said. “Your social life dwindles a little bit, but you enjoy that even more when you get all of your work done.’’
Ferentz sees that as real-world training for the Hawkeyes, developing the organizational skills that prepare them to take on the challenges that life after football will present.
Ojemudia sees the benefits.
He now understands how that can translate to success, both on and off the field.
“I want to play in the NFL, but I’ve always been interested in cars,’’ Ojemudia said. “So, when my football career is over, I want to work for a car company. I want do design them.’’
His father, Dennis, spent a career doing just that for Ford, and the chance to work in the automotive industry is a powerful draw for Ojemudia, who grew up in Farmington Hills, Michigan, in the suburbs of Detroit.
“It’s genetics, I guess,’’ Ojemudia said. “It’s a big industry and growing up around it, I want to be a part of it someday. It’s all part of the plan.’’
That plan also includes making the most of his move into the starting lineup this season for Iowa.
“I’m more ready for it now, more prepared than I’ve ever been,’’ Ojemudia said. “That’s the way I have to be to make it work.’’