Falcons are hoping Orhorhoro ends their second-round blues

Former Clemson defender shares emotional moment upon entering franchise’s locker room for first time

FLOWERY BRANCH – Call it the curse of Peter Konz and Jimmy Williams.

The Falcons have a history of swinging big and missing in the second round of the NFL draft over the past two decades. They are hoping this year’s choice -- former Clemson defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro -- is the real deal. (Pronounced: Oh-roh-roh-roh).

Only linebacker Deion Jones (a second-round pick in 2016) and safety William Moore (2009) have made it to a Pro Bowl since the 2005 draft. Defensive tackle Jonathan Babineaux (2005), left guard Justin Blalock (2007), linebacker Curtis Lofton (2008) and cornerback Robert Alford (2016, had strong careers but no Pro Bowls.

Orhorhoro needed a moment when he went into the Falcons’ locker room for the first time.

“When I saw my locker, I called (my father),” he said. “He was the first person that I called. I called him and said ‘Dad, you have to look at this. You have to see this. I’m seeing it.’ Him just being happy for me and just knowing that his son is in a great place. That just warmed his heart knowing that I’m in a great place and in great hands.”

Orhorhoro, a native of Nigeria, moved to the United Kingdom as a youth and then to the Detroit area.

After playing basketball, he joined the football team. He played wide receiver, but couldn’t catch. He was moved to tight end, but didn’t like blocking. He ended up at linebacker. Orhorhoro was moved to tackle at Clemson.

He was named all-ACC last season and credited with 97 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 12 sacks, nine pass breakups and two fumble recoveries in 1,526 defensive career snaps. He played in 53 games and made 30 starts from 2019-23.

“It’s so surreal just being out here,” Orhorhoro said after his first practice with the Falcons. “I’m not too far from here. I went to Clemson, an hour and 30 (minutes) away, played here a couple of times. But to actually finally be here on an NFL field, I’m so grateful for that. Grateful for the opportunity ahead.”

Orhorhoro is looking forward to working with former Clemson and Falcons Pro Bowl defensive tackle Grady Jarrett.

“I’ve heard his name like 100 times,” Orhorhoro said. “That’s all that (Clemson) coach (Dabo) Swinney talks about. “Grady, Grady, Grady. So, I’d watched his tape at Clemson and I’d see why he’s talking about him. I watched his tape here and he’s still talking about him.

“So, I’m just excited to learn from a guy that’s been in the league 10 years, going on more. I’m just real eager to learn.”

Learning isn’t a problem for Orhorhoro, who earned a degree in sociology in three years and added a master’s degree in athletic leadership in Dec. 2023. He has completed micro-internships at Synnex (2019) and Adobe (2022).

He’s also looking forward to working with veteran defensive tackle David Onyemata.

“Just two great vets to learn from and soak a lot of knowledge from them because they’ve been playing for such a long time,” Orhorhoro said. “I bet you they know all the tricks that I need. I’ll be right there next to their hip, trying to soak up all of the knowledge that they’ve got.”

Quick look at other second-round picks

The list of busts and under-achievers include Konz (2012), Williams (2007), defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman (2014), cornerback Jalen Collins (2015) cornerback Isaiah Oliver (2018) and defensive tackle Marlon Davidson (2020).

Oliver turned into a good nickel back, but when you’re taken in the second round, the expectation is that you’ll be a starter outside. Davidson had a chronic-knee injury that has slowed his career. He still hanging on in the league as he recently signed with the Titans.

The jury is still out on safety Richie Grant (2021), outside linebacker Arnold Ebitketie (2022), inside linebacker Troy Andersen (2022) and left guard Matthew Bergeron (2023).

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