NFL rookie Odafe Oweh to go by Nigerian name in league

"People were having trouble pronouncing Odafe," Oweh said, "so I went to Jayson my earlier years. But I don't care anymore."

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The NFL rookie formerly known as Jayson Oweh is reclaiming his Nigerian first name, Odafe. 

The linebacker was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens this year and was introduced at the NFL draft by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who read his birth name off the selection card. 

Former Penn State linebacker Odafe Oweh, drafted by the Baltimore Ravens this year, was introduced at the NFL draft by Commissioner Roger Goodell, who read his birth name off the selection card. (NFL.com)

During a virtual press conference, Odafe Oweh smiled and said, “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.” 

Oweh’s parents are both Nigerian natives who were later educated in London. They relocated to New Jersey in the 1990s, where their children were born. For Oweh, reclaiming his name at the NFL draft is also the fulfillment of a prophecy. His first name, Odafe, means “a wealthy individual.” 

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“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 Oweh, told The Baltimore Sun. “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.”

His parents told the newspaper other Nigerians in their community would often echo the proclamation, declaring their son would indeed grow up to be wealthy. His contract is currently valued at more than $11 million. 

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Tania Oweh said her son’s growth into his Nigerian heritage began in college at Penn State, where he became friends with more native countrymen. 

His name change and the announcement of it is a chance, she said, for her son “to go back to the name where it all began.” 

“He may not understand it now,” Tania Oweh said, “but it has some spiritual implications, also. And so, it’s a very exciting time.”

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