Anthony Olobia remembers the play as a kickoff. Maybe eight seconds of action tops. It was a special-teams period in the opening days of fall camp.
“I just kind of got hit weird,” Olobia says. “That was all that happened.”
It was a humid summer day last August, and Olobia was entering his first season in the Kansas football program. A defensive end from Arizona Western Community College, Olobia had chosen Kansas because of his comfort with the coaching staff. He had other offers. Good ones, too. But after listening to the selling points from Kansas, he figured he could make an impact right away as a junior-college pass rusher.
Then came that kickoff. Olobia found himself tangled up in an awkward collision. And a few days later, he had the news: He’d torn his ACL. His season was already done.
“It was kind of a tough road,” Olobia says.
Sitting inside the Anderson Family Football Complex on Saturday, Olobia reflected on his first 12 months at Kansas. It wasn’t all bad, of course. He had time to breathe, to learn the ropes at KU, to adjust to the rigors of Division I football during a redshirt season. He also had time to bond with roommate Damani Mosby, a junior-college defensive end who was sitting out the season for a slightly different reason.
“I came in here extremely overweight,” Mosby says.
Mosby, who transferred to Kansas from Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, has an explanation for that. In the summer before he arrived at KU, he had to finish a chunk of credit hours to be eligible for the 2014 season. For the most part, he says, his workout schedule was put on the back-burner.
“I was about 20 pounds heavier than my playing weight,” says Mosby, who is now listed at 228. “And it wasn’t good weight.”
One year later, Olobia and Mosby are now finally healthy and in shape, which is good news for Kansas coach David Beaty. On a roster with dozens of unknowns and few standouts, Olobia and Mosby could join senior Ben Goodman in forming a respectable pass rush.
“I still think that has to be one of the strengths of our team heading into this season,” Beaty says. “Those guys are big and fairly talented guys. They (have) played some ball, too, which (means) they've got some stuff under their belt.”
There is, of course, no shortage of skepticism surrounding this Kansas team. And if the defensive line is a strength, that may mean that the other areas of the team are just that lacking in talent. But Olobia and Mosby appear to fit the mold of a Big 12 pass rusher. Olobia is listed at 6 feet 5 and 239 pounds — “He’s what they look like,” Beaty says — and he had decent interest from both Oklahoma and Texas Tech after two productive seasons at Arizona Western. It was a welcome sight for Olobia, who grew up in Renton, Wash., near Seattle, and had little interest from Division I schools out of high school.
“I was really raw,” Olobia says. “I didn’t have a lot of defensive experience. But once I got out there (Arizona Western), I was a true defensive end, playing strictly defense, and I did well.”
Mosby, meanwhile, was a three-star juco defensive end with an offer from K-State, according to Rivals.com. Mosby says his year on the sidelines was less torturous than Olobia’s. Mosby had to sweat his way back into shape, but he avoided the grueling rehab that comes with an ACL injury. But each Saturday, Mosby says, the two roommates would come together and watch Kansas’ games from the sidelines. It wasn’t always a pleasant sight, but that helped the bond, too. And after a year of waiting, Olobia and Mosby are eager to finally help out.
“We watched the team on Saturday, and we’d be champing at the bit,” Mosby says. “We wanted to get the pads on. But I think that whole year really helped us build a great relationship between each other.”