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Q&A with grad-transfer Obi Eboh

UCLA Athletics sat down with the transfer from Stanford, who is seeking a degree from UCLA’s law school

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 30 Notre Dame at Stanford Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Obi Eboh played three seasons worth of football with the Stanford Cardinal. And now he’s a member of the UCLA Bruins as he works towards his law degree.

Eboh, a 6’2 cornerback, made five career pass breakups during his time at Stanford and wrapped up 43 total tackles. He spent his time in coverage alongside some talented cornerbacks with the Cardinal and now will take his place alongside some other fellow talented Bruins in the secondary.

He recently sat down with the UCLA Athletics Department in a candid interview about his journey to UCLA. Here are the questions and answers, which can also be found here:

Q: As a three-sport athlete in high school (football, basketball and track), did you always know that football would be the sport that took you to the next level?

A: I would say I didn’t always know. For the longest time, I had hoop dreams. I grew up playing AAU basketball. I think it wasn’t until the ninth grade where I really realized, ‘Hey, I think I’m probably a little bit better at football than I am at basketball.’ I remember at a 7-on-7 tournament where I may have had a few touchdowns and a few interceptions in one game and I was like, ‘Yeah, this is going to be it for me.’ I think it was around ninth grade where I probably realized I should put more focus on football than basketball.

Q: Is there special meaning or a story behind you wearing No. 22?

A: Yes, there is. One, it was the first number that I wore, growing up. I’m from Dallas, Texas and so Emmitt Smith has a huge influence for me being from Dallas and [playing for] the Cowboys. I always wore that number because I used to play running back. I went to Stanford, wore 22.

It wasn’t one of the first things that Coach (Chip) Kelly asked, but as I went through the recruiting process, he made it a point that I’d be wearing 22 here, too. And that just meant a lot to me just because I never wanted to switch numbers and it’s kind of a tradition thing for me. It’s what I’m going to hopefully keep wearing going forward. It seems like a pretty trivial thing, but it meant that he cares a lot about me, just thinking about what I would like to do and be comfortable here. I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a good thing.

Q: What about UCLA’s football program appealed to you when looking at places to transfer?

A: I think, geographically, it made sense. I’ve been playing in the Pac-12 for four years, and I’ve played every team that’s going to be on our future schedule, so I think the familiarity was really nice. I actually knew a few players on the UCLA football team before and I’ve come down here and visited, obviously, just because it was close. So, I knew a few of the guys before, which made the transition a little bit easier. Obviously, there was a necessity for a defensive back with Darnay (Holmes) leaving and some other things going down, so that’s part of the reason. And then when I got into the business law program (within the Master of Legal Studies program at UCLA School of Law), I was like, that’s a little bit of icing on the cake. I have a perfect situation and then here’s what I’m going to do, academically, and that made sense for me, too, as well.

And then, as far as things away from football and academics, I love going to the beach. I can actually go into the water down in SoCal because the water is not too cold. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the Bay, but the water’s cold up there. I love going to the beach and the palm trees, there are a lot of cool hikes; there’s just a ton of things to do in LA. I think part of that makes me happy. If you’re in a place where football was taken away from you, would you be happy? And I’m definitely in a place where I can wake up every day and feel motivated to do my work and do those things just because I’m in a place where I’m truly happy. That was a lot of it. You know what they say: if your utility is up, your production will go up. I think this is the epitome of that.

Q: Following the Pac-12’s decision to cancel the fall 2020 season and having had the chance to meet as a team, what is the mindset of the Bruins?

A: I think a lot of things came with [Tuesday’s] news. I feel like a lot of us expected it, especially with the rumors and news surrounding the Big Ten the day before. It was obviously difficult and disappointing news, especially as a graduate transfer coming from a different place and already trying to get acclimated to a new environment and working so hard to even get to here and play this season in the first place, to now have it seemingly shut down for the fall. There’s a lot of implications with that – am I going to get eligibility if there isn’t a spring season, are they going to move the NFL draft and the combine – so there’s a lot of uncertainty there. But for me and the whole team, the vibe was, OK, at least now we have some clarity on the news. Now that we know what’s going on, what are we going to do moving forward? How can we get better? How can we use our time effectively? You either have time on your hands or time on your side, so I think the most important thing we got out of [Tuesday] was that we’ve got to use this time effectively. God has a plan for us. We’re just going to respond accordingly to what happened.

Q: You’re still going to be busy during the fall as you start your master’s program. Why was it important for you to further your education while continuing football after graduating from Stanford?

A: Having the Stanford degree and having those ties and those alumni, I think it made sense for me to come to UCLA and kind of do the same thing. It’s actually the inaugural year of the program – it’s called Master of Legal Studies – and within that there’s a specialization in business law. I think it matched up well with my undergraduate degree at Stanford, and my undergrad degree was management science and engineering. It just made sense. It’s important for me because of where I want to go in life. Further down the road, I’d like to be a CEO, an executive, a board member, and I think it made sense for me to learn about the legal and regulatory aspects that would govern the space that I’m in. I’m the first person on the football team to be doing a different program, so I’m excited to learn and I think it’s going to be a great learning opportunity for me.

Q: How did you hear about the Master of Legal Studies program at UCLA School of Law and what about the program appealed to you?

A: I actually made a good relationship with the dean of the Anderson School of Management. My neighbor back home actually went to school with him, and through him, I made a relationship with the dean and we started talking about would it be possible for me to get my MBA or do some of the programs that are in Anderson. We figured out that it’s probably going to be a little bit tough to balance an MBA and playing football. So, he pointed me in the direction of professor Jason Fiske, who is the director of this program. He thought it would be a good idea for me to look into the business law specialization in this master’s, so that’s how I got pointed in that direction. Then I had a lot of conversations with professor Fiske and some of the other professors that are in the business law program, and from there, I was like, this is something that I think I might want to pursue. And then I applied and got the interview, and here we are a few months later. It’s definitely a blessing. I definitely talked to the right people and everybody was so willing to help. It was a great experience overall.

Q: What are your future goals upon graduating with your master’s?

A: I think, right now, my immediate goal is to go play in the NFL and have a long career there, which will then, ultimately, upstart my career, professionally. After that, I always envisioned myself working in either private equity, venture, growth equity – that kind of space in finance. So, I think eventually I would like to be either a partner or CEO within one of those firms. I think that would be one, singular goal. And then I think I could go down a bunch of other different paths. I think entrepreneurship, if I wanted to start my own thing, I’ve bounced a few ideas around some people. Once I’ve established a certain amount of credibility and wealth in being a CEO, or an executive, or board member, I think I could then go down that entrepreneurial wave and kind of start my own thing. But that’s way down the line. For now, I’m thinking about maybe being a partner at a private equity firm. That’s something I’d like to get into. That’s what I saw growing up. A lot of my friends’ parents and family were involved in private equity or venture and so I think that was just something that I always saw and was fascinated by it. And so now I’m just here, working towards those goals, step by step.

Q: You’ve talked a lot about your career goals and how it has brought you to UCLA. Now that you’ve been here for a few weeks, what was your actual journey like from Stanford, to Texas and finally to LA?

A: Actually, I was in LA, watching spring practice at the time everything got shut down. I was actually driving down to watch UCLA practice and I was getting a bunch of calls on the road and I was like, ‘Alright, my phone’s blowing up, what’s going on?’ And they said that school (at Stanford) was canceled for the rest of the quarter, people were going home. I was just on my way (to Los Angeles), all my stuff is at Stanford. I hung out here for a few days and watched people practice, and UCLA canceled. Then I was like, ‘OK, this is bad.’ I actually had to drive back up to Stanford, pack up all my things into my truck. The drive is 24 hours, but it took me 27 hours to drive all the way back from Stanford to Texas. And I drove back from SoCal, so it was like another six hours that I had added on to the trip. So, in total, it was probably like 30-something hours I drove just to get back home. And then from there, I was at home during quarantine, training, doing the things that I needed to do. And then I drove all the way back. The first day – at that point they told us we could come back – I can’t remember what date it was they told us we could come back. It was late June. So, I was super excited. I was like ‘Alright, let’s go. Finally.’ I drove 15 hours to Arizona the first day, straight. Then I drove to LA, dropped some stuff off here, checked in. Then drove five hours back to Stanford to get some more things. I have an electric bike that I ride around. I had to get my bike and some other things, and then I drove back down. So, that was like another 30-hour trip and so now I’m here. I’ve literally, just to get here and get acclimated, I’ve done days of driving. That’s just, I guess a testament of how much I really want to be here and be with these guys and be with this team.

At the time, going back home, I didn’t think about [driving instead of flying], just because we didn’t know what was going on. But definitely coming back, that was in consideration because when I came here, I didn’t have to quarantine. I could just jump straight into workouts. I definitely thought about that coming here.

Q: You mentioned getting to know some guys on the team before actually getting to campus. What was your relationship with them and how have those made your transition to Westwood easier?

A: Yeah, there’s a couple. I knew Chase Griffin because he’s from Texas. I think I’m three or four years older than Chase, but there’s a picture of us. He used to do a bunch of stuff with the Elite 11 and I was always at those little Nike Opening camps. I actually went to the Opening camp in Beaverton, Oregon, and we linked up there again. And so I’ve known him a while, just through the recruiting and camp process out of high school. I came down here and hung out a lot with Kyle Philips, Jaylen Erwin and Demetric Felton. And then I’m really cool with my roommate now, Kenny Churchwell. So, yeah, there’s a bunch of really cool guys. I think that’s just a testament to Coach Kelly and the people that he recruits and the people that he’s bringing in. I think they’re all really good guys. And they’ve all really helped me get acclimated to me being here. The guys in my workout group are super cool, a bunch of guys that I can name. I’m not sure how much they really had a crazy amount of influence on me coming here, but just like all the other things, it was a big plus when I did get here. There are some really cool guys. I love the team… they’re intelligent people, thoughtful guys. Big shoutout to Coach Kelly and the guys he’s bringing in.