In a recent interview with The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore Ravens rookie outside linebacker Odafe Oweh opened up about reverting to his Nigerian first name and the period in his life he fully embraced his African heritage.
Born in New Jersey to Nigerian parents, the 22-year-old explained he took up his middle name Jayson during his formative years as people had issues with pronouncing his indigenous name. After he was selected by the Ravens on draft day, however, the rookie announced he no longer wanted to be referred by his middle name.
“People were having trouble pronouncing Odafe, so I went to Jayson my earlier years. But I don’t care anymore; you’re going to have to learn how to pronounce it,” the No. 31 overall draft pick told reporters.
The promising Nigerian prospect is of Urhobo heritage by way of his father while his mother is from the Igbo ethnic group. His first name means “a wealthy individual” in the Urhobo language.
“Usually when Nigerians name kids, it’s either something that’s being projected on a kid or something that is indicative of the current situation,” his mother Tania told the news outlet. “Obviously, this was more a projection, like, ‘You’re going to be a wealthy man.’ Wealth, not just monetarily but holistically. And that was the proclamation on him.”
Odafe also explained he embraced his Nigerian heritage during his college days, adding that though African students on campus formed the minority while he was enrolled, the student’s association was very vibrant. He said that caught his attention.
“You can definitely see it. You definitely know who are the Nigerian ones,” Odafe told The Baltimore Sun. “And there were a lot of Nigerians. As you get older, you start to see a lot of people are Nigerian. We definitely had that culture there.”
During his time at Penn State, Odafe also established friendships with fellow Nigerian students and as he transitioned, his mother said she witnessed him “grow into that manhood.” “And I think at that point, he started to understand who he is as a human being. His belief, his connection to his roots,” Tania added.
Odafe also said: “As I got to college, I really found myself. I really understood that I’ve always loved to be Nigerian. I’ve always loved to be African … I started really embracing my African culture as I got older. I understood it was good to be different. It was good to have culture.”