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Redskins’ O.J. Atogwe rooted in faith, family, football
ST. CHARLES, Mo. — Oshiomogho Atogwe knows exactly where to find the story of Abraham in whatever version of the Bible he chooses for his hourlong reading sessions each day.
It could be one of the seven editions located throughout his four-bedroom house in this St. Louis suburb on the west bank of the Missouri River, or it could be one of the many versions in the Bible application downloaded to his smartphone. The account that begins in the 12th chapter of the Book of Genesis is special to him.
The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing.”
Sitting in his kitchen last week, Atogwe cited that story and then proudly recalled another.
His path to the Washington Redskins‘ defensive backfield actually began in 1974, seven years before he was born. That’s when his father, Aigbomoidi, left his home and family in the Nigerian village of Ayogwiri to chase prosperity in Windsor, Ontario.
“I come from a very strong people, a proud people,” Atogwe said. “I’m where I am because of my father and his father before him and my mother’s father.
“Whenever I go home, I get a great understanding of the character of people I come from, the strength, the quality, integrity, hard-working, faithful. So it’s not a surprise when I look back on what I’ve accomplished.”
“Go from your country”
A Nigerian farmer, as Aigbomoidi explains it, is not like an American one. Peasant is a comparable term Westerners would better understand.
“You have a small piece of land that you work every year, and by the time the year is gone, you have enough to feed the family but not much left to go to school or do whatever,” he said. “It’s a tough life.”
That Aigbomoidi descended from a line of farmers limited his opportunities in Nigeria, especially as the oldest of nine brothers and sisters. College was beyond their means, and the family was not politically connected.
It’s customary in Africa, though, for the oldest child to help support the rest of the family. Aigbomoidi always was much smarter than required to work the family’s plot, so they managed to send him out of the village to trade school. He garnered the key to the American — or, rather, the Canadian — dream there by becoming an auto mechanic.
When he was 25, Aigbomoidi set off for Windsor, leaving behind his pregnant wife, Babianna. Relocating to Canada was easier than getting into the United States, and he had a friend who already had immigrated there. He lodged at his friend’s apartment while settling in to a new world.
“We were young,” said Aigbomoidi, now 62, “and I wanted a better life.”
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