The 2020 New York Giants will gladly accept pass rush help from wherever they can find it. Might some come from Oluwole Betiku Jr., a late-blooming defensive end signed as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois?
Let’s take a closer look at the 22-year-old, who had 9.0 sacks for Illinois last season.
Position: Defensive end
Contract status: Year 1 of three-year, $2.285 million contract (RFA 2023)
How he got here
Before you read any further, the video above is required watching. It’s fantastic, and it pretty much explains everything you need to know about how Betiku ended up with a spot on the Giants’ 90-man roster.
Born in Nigeria, Betiku figured out as a youngster that playing football — a sport he knew little about but thought he could excel at — in America could be his ticket out of an impoverished lifestyle.
He made it here and became a five-star high school player who chose to attend college at USC. That decision, though, did not work out very well. He had only a half-sack in 14 games over two seasons and missed the 2018 season due to a hip injury. He wasn’t happy at USC, and they weren’t happy with him.
“Regardless of what they say, they can’t measure my heart,” Betiku said. “I’m willing to go hard and run through the wall for any team that picks me and that’s all that matters. The rest? They’re always going to say stuff. They called me a bust when I had only been playing football for a year and a half.
“At USC, they called me a bust. They said I was the worst five-star. They’re always going to say stuff. Growing up in my career, I learned not to pay attention to the noise. ... There’s nothing that says you have to be a Hall of Famer right away.”
Betiku entered the transfer portal and landed at Illinois. He called that “the best decision I ever made.”
He finished the 2019 season 11th in the nation in sacks per game (.90) and had 13 tackles for loss.
Betiku, with only the one noteworthy season, was not invited to the NFL Combine. He ran a 4.69 40-yard dash at the Illinois Pro Day. Here’s how his Pro Day stacked up against defensive linemen tested at the Combine.
- 40: 4.69; third-best time
- Vertical: 32 inches; 10th (tie)
- Broad: 9’7”; 12th (tie)
- Short shuttle: 4.26; first
- 3-cone drill: 7.26 seconds; fourth
If you are into Relative Athletic Scores (RAS), here is Betiku’s, based on his Pro Day testing:
RAS scores are based on a 10-point scale. For what it’s worth, Oshane Ximines, drafted in the third round by the Giants a year ago, had a RAS score of 7.02.
Despite having little experience, Betiku chose to forego his final season of eligibility at Illinois to turn pro.
“You’ve got to always bet on yourself because at the end of the day, if you know how hard you work and you know what you had to do to get to this position and you’re willing to make to sacrifices on the next level, which is going to be tough, you bet on yourself,” Betiku said.
“That’s how I felt about myself. I’m willing to make the sacrifices to be a pro and be the best player I can be on any team who picks me.”
No one picked him in the draft. The Giants, though, are giving him a chance.
It is entirely possible that Betiku has played less football than anyone else on the Giants’ 90-man roster. He had never played the sport before coming to America, barely saw the field in two seasons at USC, saying the most snaps he ever played in two seasons there in a game was eight, and had just one season of playing full time for Illinois.
Walter Football called him “a 1-year wonder who has size issues for the next level.”
He seems light to be a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end in the NFL. Can he play standing up and handle the edge-setting and coverage responsibilities?
Perhaps Betiku’s 2020 ceiling is as a developmental player who spends time on the practice squad learning his craft.
The fact that he has a pass rushing pedigree, even with just one year of production, does, however, make him a player to pay attention to whenever the Giants are able to get on the field.