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New Orleans Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata excited to stay with 'brotherhood'

Closeness of defensive line one reason Onyemata agreed to terms on new contract with Saints


If you want to hear what David Onyemata is saying in a locker room, be prepared to lean in. His tone isn't barely-above-a-whisper level, but it isn't as commanding as one might expect of a 6-foot-4, 300-pound man.

On the field, though, is where Onyemata throws around his weight – and the weight of any opponent unfortunate enough to be standing in front of the New Orleans Saints defensive tackle, most of whom are as tall and as heavy.

His numbers don't tell the complete story. Onyemata had three sacks, 32 tackles and a pass defended last season, and has 9.5 sacks, 123 tackles, three passes defended and a forced fumble in his first four NFL seasons

This is a much more representative submission: Onyemata has signed a three-year deal, ensuring continuity on the defensive line and that the overpowering tackle will continue his career in New Orleans.

"It's awesome," Onyemata said. "Being back here and working with the guys and the coaches – (defensive line coach) Ryan (Nielsen), D.A. (defensive coordinator Dennis Allen) – all the guys in the defensive meeting room, it's awesome being back. I'm looking forward to the season already.

"It's a brotherhood in there. Those guys, it's a brotherhood – from (defensive end) Cam (Jordan), to (tackle) Malcom (Brown), to (tackle) Sheldon (Rankins), to (tackle) Shy (Tuttle), to (end) Trey (Hendrickson), to (end) Marcus (Davenport), to (tackle Taylor) Stallworth, to everyone. It's a big brotherhood and it's great being back there and getting to go work with those guys again."

Onyemata will continue a storybook career. He played soccer as a youth, didn't play football until entering college and played collegiately at the University of Manitoba, in Canada. The native of Lagos, Nigeria, immigrated on his own to Winnipeg in 2011 to attend college.

"It still hasn't kicked in, I'm not going to lie to you," he said. "Everything that's happened, it keeps getting more realistic. I can look back to even way before then, before I ever actually started playing football, if I hadn't made that one move back in 2011, it might have been a different situation."

Onyemata said there were other options available to him as an unrestricted free agent, but that New Orleans is where he wanted to continue his career.

"I was calm about (free agency)," he said. "I wasn't stressing about it, knowing that at the end of the day, things were going to pan out right.

"Just going back to the coaching staff and my guys. Other things played a factor into it, that's why I'm staying here.

"Sometimes, you can choose money over certain things but at the same time, it's knowing who you've been around and knowing what the people around you actually bring into your life and your game week in and week out. That played a bigger role for me."

Onyemata, who started all 15 regular-season games he played last season, has seen his playing time and importance increase during his career and has been an integral part of one of the league's best run defenses the last two seasons. New Orleans finished second against the run in 2018 (80.2 yards allowed per game) and fourth in '19 (91.3).

"There's always going to be growth," he said. "I come in there with the mind-set to improve on everything every year. That's been my mind-set from the get-go and that's always going to be my mind-set going forward.

"I come in with the mind-set of improving every year, both in the pass and the run game. I'm comfortable here. I've still got a lot of work to do, I'm still working regardless of what year or what the numbers say. I'm still out here grinding."

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