No place like home for Texans linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
Current Houston Texans and former Los Angeles Rams linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo (45) during an NFL football game against the New England Patriots Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Texans linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo has certainly had some challenges during the early years of his NFL career.

But his fortunes have seemed to shift in recent months.

The Alief Taylor product was a part of the Los Angeles Rams’ Super Bowl championship team and a month ago he signed a one-year free-agent deal that has brought him back home. In many ways Okoronkwo, who is best known as “Ogbo,” has a hard time wrapping his mind around how well it has all come together.

“It feels amazing,” he said recently during the Texans’ voluntary OTA practices. “It’s a dream come true to be able to come from what we did last year in Los Angeles and to be able to come home. It’s a dream come true.”

Adding to Ogbo’s excitement is the chance to prove himself in head coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 defense where he will get a chance to rush the passer off the edge as a down lineman. If Ogbo can stay healthy and put up numbers similar to the ones that made him Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year at Oklahoma in 2017, he could be looking at a longer-term commitment here or elsewhere in the league.

For now, however, Ogbo is most focused on the opportunity at hand and relishing the moment.

“It means the world to me. It was a journey,” he said. “So, it’s a real beautiful thing to be here right now just to be able to come home and play for my home team.”

A native of Nigeria, the 6-foot-2, 253-pound Ogbo has struggled with injuries since being drafted in the fifth round by the Rams. But after being moved to the active roster last October, Ogbo used his speed and physicality to produce a career season with 15 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks, six quarterback hits and two forced fumbles while playing in 13 games in helping the Rams to their Super Bowl title season.

He has been a valuable addition this offseason because of his play and veteran presence in the Texans’ youthful locker room and knows what it takes to win a championship.

“We added him to our mix because he has excellent speed, he plays hard every down, and we’re always looking for defensive linemen that can rush the passer,” Smith said. “Everything I’ve seen from him, he’s exactly who we wanted and thought he would be. Local flavor ain’t all bad.”

Ogbo seems to be blending in and bonding well with his new teammates. The unit is on a mission to take another step in rebuilding the Texans’ defensive front.

The work began during the offseason program and has continued during OTAs.

“Day one,” Ogbo said. “Day one we know we are going to be the most physical, the most relentless defensive line in the NFL.”

But Ogbo understands a big part of being the defensive front the Texans want to be is building that bond across the board. So far that process seems to be going smoothly.

“We’ve all got to do it together, so we’ve got to be connected on and off the field,” he said. “That’s what we plan to do this offseason, just build those relationships so that you can see exactly how much we love each other on the field.”