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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Andrew Gamble

NFL Draft: Michigan star reveals mindset propelled him to the pinnacle of college football

Wolverine is one of the strongest superheroes around - so it makes sense the Michigan offensive line dominated defensive lines across the nation in 2022.

The Michigan Wolverines offensive line won the Joe Moore Award last season, which is given to the nation's best offensive line. At the heart of the line’s success was Olusegun Oluwatimi, a powerful Maryland native who won both the Rimington Award and Outland Trophy - bestowed upon the best center and interior lineman in college football respectively - after one season with the Wolverines.

Oluwatimi - a consensus first-team All-American - attended DeMatha Catholic High School, and 247 Sports evaluated him as a two-star talent coming out of high school. He chose Virginia after graduating, and he enjoyed a productive three years as a Cavalier before switching to Michigan.

Critics previously thought Oluwatimi would be a third-day pick or even go undrafted, but his fine performances in 2022 mean he is now expected to go earlier given he was the best in the nation as Michigan reached the College Football Playoff once again. Oluwatimi uses an exceptional combination of athleticism and power to dominate, and he is ultimately proud of his technique and how he performed in 2022.

“My style of play is very controlled,” Oluwatimi exclusively told Mirror Sport. “I feel like I'm a technician, but I’m a physical player so that’s what I pride myself on. To be able to go perform well when the lights are on and everybody's watching is great. Sometimes the guy you’re going up against might give you a little doubt and little fear, but that's good - it brings the best out of me.

“The same thing I did on Saturdays, I did day in day out during the week against my teammates. I’m happy I was able to do that and prove myself this year.”

Olusegun Oluwatimi (no.55) admitted winning the Big 10 Championship over Purdue was the highlight of his four-year college career (Getty Images)

During his time at Virginia, Oluwatimi appeared in 36 games and allowed just seven sacks across 2,561 snaps at center. However, he transferred to Michigan ahead of the 2022 season and the 23-year-old took his game to a new level; his improved performances and polished mechanics saw his draft stock surge as Oluwatimi allowed just four quarterback hurries, five quarterback hits and no sacks over his 834 snaps - and he believes he did it for the most celebrated school in college football.

“Just being able to put on the amazing blue winged helmet meant the world to me,” Oluwatimi said. “I think it's the most historic programme in college football and when we're coming out that tunnel in front of over 110,000 fans, it’s awesome.

“You don't get this environment anywhere else in college football, so I cherished it and respected programme’s history. Knowing I’m a part of Michigan’s history, I had to do it right.”

The Wolverines faced the TCU Horned Frogs in the Fiesta Bowl in the College Football Playoff and fell behind early, but fought back to lose a thrilling contest 51-45. Oluwatimi admitted he would have loved to win the National Championship, although claiming the Big 10 Championship was the biggest highlight of his college career.

The future certainly looks bright for Oluwatimi - and it all stems from his decision to test himself by switching from Virginia to Michigan. Considering why he made the move and his mindset heading into 2022, Oluwatimi added: “I just wanted to be able to play at a high level on a national stage. Transferring to Michigan, I knew the stakes would be higher and I ended up competing for a national title and winning a conference championship.

“I wanted to stay healthy and keep developing, and just be the same guy I always was because I felt my talents and who I am as a person were great strengths. Each year you grow and get better, so that’s what I wanted to do at Michigan and I feel like I achieved that.”

Michigan is undoubtedly one of the premier programmes in college football and Oluwatimi was grateful to have played under revered head coach Jim Harbaugh. The former San Francisco 49ers head coach has been linked with a return to the NFL for some time, but has turned the Wolverines around and back into a force in recent years. Oluwatimi heaped praise on Harbaugh for how he related to the players, as well as his remarkable experiences.

“Coach Harbaugh has done it well at each level he has been,” Oluwatimi said. “He was a first round pick, a great player in the NFL for over a decade, a great coach in college, a great coach in the NFL and now he’s back doing well at Michigan. All the lived experiences he’s had through coaching and playing ball helped me be able to play for him.

Olusegun Oluwatimi was named the best center and interior lineman in college football over the 2022 season (Getty Images)

“I mean, it's awesome when you have a guy like that coaching you because, not a lot of coaches can say it, but he was better than 90 or 95 percent of the roster as a player so he can do things at a really high level, or at least he used to be able to do things at a high level! He understands what the process actually feels like, not just what it looks like from a coach standpoint, so playing for Coach Harbaugh was awesome.”

Whether it’s protecting Aaron Rodgers - who he confessed is one of his favourite all-time athletes - or another superstar quarterback, Oluwatimi is ready to excel at the professional level and add quality to a franchise’s offensive line. What will a team get from him should they draft the Michigan stud?

“An NFL team is going to get a leader, a hard worker, and somebody that's going to hold people accountable,” he confidently declared. “I’m definitely going to add value to any o-line room that I’m in. From the player standpoint, they’re going to get someone who is consistent, durable and dependable. Someone who practices hard and has a an undying will to win, whether that be on Sundays or during reps at practice.”

Unlike Wolverine, Oluwatimi doesn’t need adamantium to become a superhero. His mentality and work-rate ensured he reached that status in college football - and the NFL awaits next.

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