By Justin Braden
Lanham, MD –
“I’m originally from Canada. Ottawa, Ontario, so I transferred here just for the opportunity to play football. My mom said if you’re serious about football, show me you want it.”
Peter Owolabi is undoubtedly serious about football. It takes deep bravery for any young man to leave his family to pursue their dream in another country, but he is humble in his gratitude for the village of support he has received from his coaches, family, and teammates during his career as a student-athlete.
“It feels, sometimes, lonely. You’re by yourself. You can’t really see your family in person, but it makes me work harder. It makes me want to better myself. As I like to say, and my teammates know me for saying, I say chop wood and carry water.”
After making the jump from Canada to the United States, Owolabi made a name for himself at Mt. Zion, a prep school in Maryland, but the news came down from the top just a few days ago that football will be postponed indefinitely beginning in 2024, so now Peter is setting his eyes on opportunities with other programs.
It was, after all, Owolabi’s work on the field in Canada that initially attracted the interest of a renowned Canadian football coach, scout, and student-athlete mentor Jean Guillaume - the man who Peter credits with creating his opportunity to play football in the United States.
“(Coach Jean) is the reason I’m here. He had the connection to Mt. Zion to help me transfer down here. He helps a lot of kids in Canada to have an opportunity to go to the next level, and not only to make their city proud but to make their family proud."
Peter plays with a tenacity that unquestionably makes his family proud, and the chip on his shoulder from being an international talent, coupled with his cerebral approach to the game is something that prep programs are going to fear across the United States as he heads into his final year of high school football.
It did not take long for Owolabi to adjust to the speed of the game, and by the end of his junior season, he developed an intellectual approach to the game that reinforced his confidence in playing defense and helped him lay the foundation for him to become an elite defender his senior year.
“What I enjoy the most is just looking at (opponents) in film and seeing who I am going up against and how they react. Seeing their tendencies, and in the warmups seeing those same tendencies and them not changing that. I know when I see that I’m going to have a great day that game.”
Owolabi approaches football like an artist who establishes clear and distinguishing boundaries between run defense and the pass rush, and like a painter, it is how he creates all the fine details in between the lines that make him a special talent on the defensive line.
“My favorite part about being on the line is that you get the contrast of both worlds. When you pass rush, that's an art, and it's specific to you, and then in the run game, when you’re in the trenches, then you’re being nasty.”
Owolabi may be nasty in the trenches, but he is agile in his tactical methodology shows in his deeply psychological approach to football where he plays mind games with the opposition.
"There was one game in particular that I saw on film that whenever the center has pressure put on him, he kind of breaks down. He doesn't enjoy being pressured. The key to any offense is not always the quarterback, most of the time it is the center. If you get in their head and mess with them, maybe their snaps start to go off, maybe they become inaccurate as they're snapping the ball, and that really affects the quarterback and how he drops back and how much trust he has in his center."
Owolabi has wisdom beyond the years of a teenager, and it can be heard when he speaks of family and football. He moves like the water that he carries - softly flowing into the roles that his life calls upon him to fill and crashing hard when his presence must be felt.
“Make sure you have a family that supports you. Make sure there are people in your corner that fight for you as much as you would fight for them. That’s why I’m grateful for my family and Coach Jean. Whatever you want to do put 100 percent into it. Eventually, if you keep working hard enough you’re going to catch somebody’s eye.”
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