Safety O.J. Atogwe a huge fan of the Lions

Posted Mar 21, 2012

O.J. Atogwe grew up in Windsor as a self-confessed Lions fan.

"I was a huge Lions fan all my life," the free agent safety said before leaving the Lions' practice facility Wednesday after a visit. "It would mean something special to play here if that's what the Lord has for me. I (tried to emulate) Barry Sanders until I was 19 and I stopped playing running back."

Atogwe left without a contract, but said he was impressed with the entire Lions organization, especially its coaching staff.

"I definitely have a better feel and a sense of the team," he said. "I'm thankful they brought me in here just to meet them. They left an impression on me."

This isn't the first time the Lions have courted Atogwe. They pursued him in 2009 but could not match the five-year, $32 million contract he signed with the Rams.

Atogwe played just one season under that deal before he was released by the Rams. He signed a five-year, $26 million deal with the Redskins before last season, but became a salary cap casualty right before free agency opened for business last week.

"I'm going to talk with my agent and see what else we have on the docket and go from there," Atogwe said of his future plans. "I'm not in a hurry to make a decision today, but I'm also not going to wait six months to make a decision.

"I'm going to make one when I feel that the time is right to make a decision after everything has been considered and that's the way I'm going to handle it."

Atogwe, 30, spent his first six NFL seasons with the Rams (2005-10) where he earned the reputation of being a ball hawk. He led the NFC with eight interceptions in 2007 and was the Rams' defensive MVP in 2008 after an 85-tackle, five-interception season.

He has 25 career interceptions and 16 forced fumbles in seven NFL seasons.

That's where his true value really lies with the Lions. Atogwe is a veteran player, who knows how to put himself into positions to make plays and to force turnovers. It only figures that he'd have more opportunities playing behind the Lions' dominant defensive front and alongside safety Louis Delmas.

"This is a good team and a good situation, so (it is) definitely on my board," he said. "On my big board."

The Lions return starters Delmas and Amari Spievey at safety and re-signed back-up Erik Coleman last week.

Still, Atogwe's playmaking skills would certainly put him in the competition for a starting role.