Kingsley Opara is a defensive lineman who played for the Maryland Terrapins last season. And the 6’3″, 300-pound Jacksonville native was arguably one of the best rushers for the Terps defensive front, amassing 63 tackles and 4.0 sacks over his junior and senior seasons. Although he did go undrafted, it didn’t take long for the Houston Texans to sign him as a free agent. Now that he is on the Texans, Opara will be using his effective combination of size and athleticism to compete for a spot on the 53-man roster. Now, let’s get into the interview by FPC Texans editor Sam Gubner.
What would you say are your strengths as a player?
Kingsley Opara: I think my strength as a player is that I am a big guy who is pretty athletic. I think I got a good twitch in me for my size. I feel like I can play in a variety of schemes and I think that is what really attracted me to Houston. I think I can help contribute to the team.
I heard you say in a video that you could provide help to a team as a pass rusher. Can you elaborate on that?
Opara: I feel like people go by statistics and maybe see I didn’t get a lot of sacks and things like that, but I feel like I got to the quarterback a lot. Especially my senior year, I felt like I was a little out of position playing a zero nose. But I feel that I am more of a three technique, maybe even a five. I feel like I have the ability to do that with my athleticism.
Describe what you felt when you got that call from the Texans saying they would sign you. How was that like? How did you feel?
Opara: I just broke down and started crying, I will never forget it. It was after the draft, after the last pick for the Redskins. I went into my room and closed the door. My mom came in and she was like, “How is everything going, are you good.” I was like, “I just need some time by myself.” All of a sudden, five minutes later somebody from the Texans called and I just started crying. I couldn’t believe it. It’s a blessing.
In 2013, the Baltimore Sun listed your favorite NFL players as Tom Brady and J.J. Watt. What are your thoughts on now being on the same defensive line as your favorite player?
Opara: It’s amazing. I used to grow up watching him and now to be on the same team as him, same locker room, it’s a blessing. I’m just going to be like a sponge and pick his brain as much as I can. I know he’s hard working and has been in the league a long time so he knows how to be a professional. I just want to learn from everyone there and hopefully be in their shoes.
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Both your parents are from Nigeria, and your siblings include four sisters. How has this family dynamic shaped you and help you succeed in football at the college, and in the future, professional level?
Opara: It’s made me the person I am today. I come from a big family and all of my siblings are women. This allowed me to look at life from a different perspective. When I was growing up, my dad used to be the one working a lot, and as I got older my mom starting working with him. Growing up I was really raised by my sisters, and this allowed me to put myself in other people’s shoes.
My family taught me to be prideful. I feel like I can be good in the locker room because I have an ability to relate to other people. I’ve been through a lot in my life. I’ve been through lots of ups and downs. So I feel like I can put myself in anybody else’s shoes. I don’t feel like I’m too good to talk to anybody.
While young guys were struggling at Maryland, everybody felt like they could come up to me. Even anyone who was older, they all felt like they could meet me in person. I feel like that helped me because of the way I was raised by women.
I heard you mention that you went through some “ups and downs”. Can you elaborate on that?
Opara: My first year at Maryland was hard. I came all the way from Jacksonville, Florida, so it was a transition.
I came in with a shoulder injury and knew I was going to have to red shirt. And having football taken away from me was hard, so coach Edsall and I butted heads a little bit. I didn’t really know how to be a college athlete at the time, so I got time in his dog house for a couple years.
Last year, I started playing a lot more and was in the rotation, but then he got fired. We had just started clicking and seeing eye-to-eye. It hurt, I’m not going to lie. I cried at times when coach Edsall got fired. You never want to see anybody lose their job, especially the guy who believed in me and offered me a scholarship: giving me a free education.
I’ve just been through a lot in my own career, so to be at this point, it is truly a blessing to call myself a professional athlete.
Is there anything you want to say to Houston Texans fans?
Opara: Just that I am grateful the coaches believed in me, seeing that I was worthy to earn a contract. Not a lot of people are blessed in this world to own a contract, some guys are blessed with the only option to go to mini-camp.
You are just going to get someone who is a hard worker and wants to learn. I haven’t had a lot in my life, but I got something now, so I just want to be that one percent and help Houston get to the next level. If I can do that, then I’ll be happy.
We at FPC Texans wish the best of luck in Kingsley Opara’s NFL journey, wherever that may take him.