The Charlotte 49ers football program has scored a number of firsts since its inaugural season in 2013. Now, four members of its first two recruiting classes are charting new territory in the NFL.
Defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi made history, becoming the first 49ers football player to be taken in the NFL Draft when the Cleveland Browns selected him with the 65th pick. A standout at Charlotte - both on and off the field, Ogunjobi quickly piled up a fair share of “firsts” to go along with his latest honor.
He was the first to wear the honorary No. 49 jersey and the first 49er to earn first team all-Conference USA honors. He recorded the 49ers first tackle for loss (TFL) and ranks first on the 49ers career list for tackles (217), TFL (49), sacks (13) and QB hurries (33).
"We're really excited for Larry being taken in the NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns," said 49ers head coach Brad Lambert. "He'll bring a great work ethic to the Browns, just as he did here. He's been a great representative of our University and continues to elevate our program. We could not be prouder of all that he has achieved and the type of player and person he has become."
However, Ogunjobi wasn’t the only 49er player who had the NFL come calling.
The program’s all-time leading receiver Austin Duke, all-time leading running back Kalif Phillips and standout defensive lineman Brandon Banks received interest from teams after the draft and have all come to terms with NFL teams as unrestricted free agents.
Duke, who played high school football in Charlotte, agreed to terms with the Carolina Panthers, keeping his talent local. Phillips, a member of the 49ers second recruiting class, signed with the Green Bay Packers. In addition, Banks, another original 49er, signed with the Washington Redskins.
"We're excited about the opportunities for Austin, Kalif and Brandon,” said Lambert. “That whole class helped lay our foundation and took a chance on us. It's great to see them rewarded for thier hard work."
With the football program still in its early stages, the impact of these four individuals cannot be overstated. “As a coach, it’s huge to say ‘you can come to Charlotte and not only live in a great city, go to a really, really good university, but you can attain a lot of individual goals as well,” said Lambert. “Larry, Austin, Kalif and Brandon are breaking down a lot of barriers for us from that standpoint, and it’s yet another first with our program. (Brandon Banks)
“And what’s especially exciting is all of them - except Kalif, who’s still working on his - got their degrees as well. That’s huge because that’s what you want for a guy - to come in, get his degree to put in his back pocket while he chases his dream in the NFL and still have that degree to fall back on."