SOFI DRAFT LAB – New Rams outside linebacker Ochaun Mathis' high school football team never had a winning record. A former three-star recruit, he continues to feel underrated to this day.
If there's a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder, it's not hard to see why.
"But that's what drives me to this day," he said after being selected in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL Draft by the Rams. "I've always been an under-the-radar guy, and I'm going to continue my path and put my name on the map."
That path that led him to Los Angeles started at TCU, where he broke out with 40 tackles (nine for loss) and 2.5 sacks while starting in all 12 games as a sophomore after redshirting as a freshman.
As a junior in 2020, He was a Second-Team All-Big 12 choice by conference coaches after tying for fifth in the FBS with nine sacks in 10 starts, also boosting his production further with 46 tackles (14 for loss). In 2021, he tied for the team lead in sacks with four sacks and had 45 tackles (seven for loss) en route to another Second-Team all-conference selection.
All told, it was enough for recruiting website On3 to consider him top player in the NCAA transfer portal for the 2022 cycle – he entered it after the 2021 season with former TCU head coach Gary Patterson no longer with the program – and led him to Nebraska, where he played far from home for the first time.
His high school, Manor, located in a suburb of Austin, Texas, is roughly 2 hours and 45 minutes from TCU's Fort Worth campus. By comparison, Nebraska's campus in Lincoln adds about 631 miles and nine hours to the trip – it's almost 11 hours and 45 minutes away. According to Lincoln Journal Star columnist Steven M. Sipple, Mathis' mother, Ochana Daniels emphasized to Ochaun that it was his decision, but Ochaun still wanted to make sure his family was okay with him playing far from home.
It was fitting, then, that he was surrounded by family at a big AirBnB in Austin celebrating when the next step in his path was announced on TV.
"They're all acting crazy right now," Mathis said. "I can't believe it. I'm finally here. I finally got to the point where I want to be, and it's only up from here."
A quick aside, and funny story about that: Mathis said he was in the bathroom when he got the call from the Rams. He ran back into the living room, with everyone followed behind him.
"I was very hysterical, to the point where I couldn't really come up with and form words," he said.
That's probably because he had a lot running through his mind when the moment happened, namely the memories of where he started and where he is now, and where he could go.
"It's all about just being in the present, and just remembering the things you've gone through and where you are now, and what could happen in the future," Mathis said. "It's all about ambition at the end of the day. That's all I got in my toolbox is straight ambition, and I just want to run on that. It's an ongoing engine at the end of the day."
Take a look at photos of new Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Ochaun Mathis from his time at Nebraska.