The Philadelphia Eagles have been making moves this offseason to bolster their already solid defense, which ranked eighth overall in the NFL last season. On Wednesday, they added another piece to their secondary with the free agent signing of seven-year veteran safety Oshiomogho “O.J.” Atogwe to a one-year deal.
“Philadelphia is a good place to be, a good organization to play for,” said Atogwe in his first teleconference as an Eagle. “A number of teams were interested, but I just felt at the end of the day I just didn’t feel comfortable with those other teams. Signing with the Eagles was the best decision for me.”
“The Eagles were interested in me. We felt each other out for a week or two. I worked out for them, and I enjoyed my time there. They liked what they saw. I liked what I saw. It just made sense. God opened the door when it needed to be, and I walked through it.”
A third round pick (66th overall) of the St. Louis Rams in the 2005 NFL Draft out of Stanford University, Atogwe spent his first six seasons with the Rams before joining the Washington Redskins last year. The Windsor, Ontario, native has amassed an impressive résumé thus far during his career, recording 453 tackles, 25 interceptions, 5.5 sacks and 16 forced fumbles. Since entering the league, his 25 picks rank third overall among safeties and eighth overall in the NFL, leading the NFC with eight in 2007.
Playing in 13 games last season with the Redskins, he accounted for 60 tackles, three interceptions, and 0.5 sacks.
Speaking on his departure from Washington, O.J. explained that after battling some nagging injuries last season, “The organization decided to go in a different direction respectfully,” and the two parties “parted ways amicably.”
In order to make room for Atogwe on the Eagles 90-man roster, long snapper Matt Camilli was released.
“O.J. will bring us veteran, quality depth at the safety position,” said Eagles general manager Howie Roseman. “We feel good about the young safeties we have on our roster, but our goal is to have the most competition possible at all of our positions as we head into training camp. O.J.’s presence will help to enhance that for the safety group. He is an accomplished player in this league and we’re happy to have him.”
How does O.J. feel about possibly being a backup and mentor to younger safeties with an opportunity to compete for a starting job in training camp having never been in such a position before?
“My mindset going into camp is the mindset I’ve always had, playing to the best of my abilities. I’m looking forward to the challenge.” His job description in his own words is to “help everyone else be successful, work hard, do what’s asked of me. They brought me in because they believe I can help make the team successful. I’m here to help the team. My role will be defined by how I play and what the team needs.”
“Internally, I believe I’m a better player than I was last year, than I was in St. Louis. I feel great now, I’m 100%. Truth proves itself once it’s seen. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone.”
Many questions will be answered as training camp will show what type of role Atogwe could play for the Eagles this season, but it can’t answer the question a lot of fans may have: What does his first name Oshiomogho mean?
Atogwe elaborated, clarifying that it means “God owns the day, only God knows tomorrow.” Playing running back as a kid, and with a first name so difficult and long to pronounce, he explained that his youth football coaches gave him the nickname “O.J.” because he played so much like O.J. Simpson.
Only time will tell how big of an impact O.J. Atogwe will have as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles, but both he and his new organization are very excited about the possibilities the future may hold, hoping to compete for the NFC East crown and return to the playoffs after ending the 2011 season with an 8-8 record, finishing second in the division to the eventual Super Bowl champion New York Giants and failing to qualify for the postseason.
By Valarie Hanson