Alumni Profiles

1995 Alumnus Roman Oben talks about football, business, and the drive to do more

The New York Giants battle the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. We had the privilege to chat with a former Super Bowl champ, and University of Louisville graduate. Roman Oben’s personal insight relating to the game comes from two different levels. He played 12 seasons in the NFL, following an All-American career under coach Howard Schnellenberger at UofL. He helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the title in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2002. He retired in 2008 and is now a broadcaster of the pre and post game for the New York Giants, the team which drafted him in 1995.

When asked how the game would shake out this Sunday, his loyalty and predication of the winner went to the Giants based on steadfast logic and reasoning. The Giants strong defensive line will prevail over the Patriots offensive threats, including their star tight end Rob Gronkowski. Oben’s prediction is a Giants victory 30-23.

Probing his NFL history, we asked Roman who was the best player he played against? Without hesitation he said former Minnesota Viking’s defensive tackle, John Randle. Roman explained that Randle went hard EVERY play. The lesson Roman learned early in his NFL career going against Randle served him well throughout the 12 years of his professional career spanning four teams and playing 90% of games.

Roman stated there were two players who he admired playing with. He said defensive end Michael Strahan of the Giants and running back LaDainian Tomlinson, with whom Roman played at San Diego were the best teammates. Roman and Tomlinson now are close friends and Roman proudly said that he looks forward to being seated on the front row one day when LaDainian is inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame.

Hoping off the football track, my next question was focused on his biggest moments at UofL? As expected, he had several fond memories. He chuckled when telling me about receiving the call from Jenny Sawyer, Director of Admissions, telling him he had enough credits to graduate in December his senior year and the pride he felt. Another moment was when he started taking graduate classes in the spring, having two 30 plus page papers due days before being drafted by the New York Giants, then walking in the graduation ceremony on Mother’s Day. What a whirlwind!

Of course, Roman had several fond football memories playing for Coach Howard Schnellenberger at a time when the football program was rising. On September 25, 1993, Roman was a sophomore and recalls, with pride in his voice, playing in front of 38,500 fans in Cardinal Stadium when they clobbered the mighty Texas Longhorns 41-10. Literally, I could hear the collegiate pride in his voice.

Our last question to Roman honed in on his commitment, dedication and strong value system to mentoring and supporting youth coupled with working and developing resolutions as a players’ representative in the NFL Player’s Association. His goal was to forge and secure educational and medical support from team owners. Where did the drive to help so many and do so much come from?

As with the previous questions, Roman answered decisively. Moving when he was 4 years old with his mother from Cameroon, West Africa to live in Washington D.C., where she worked for the Cameroon embassy, he grew up in the urban environment. Even though Roman attended wonderful schools, he saw the harshness of the urban city, was keenly aware of the typical thought of “young males were not likely to succeed” and knew from news in his D.C. town that even high profile people like, then Mayor Marion Barry and football legend Dexter Manley can easily fall and make poor decisions.

Roman believes that education and motivation are such important parts of success. He founded the Roman Oben Foundation to promote the positive development of youth and families through football, literacy and other community outreach projects. His foundation has touched lives from here in the U.S. to Cameroon providing much needed text books and financial assistance.
Roman has always had the drive to do better. He didn’t just play football. He became a representative of his fellow players. He didn’t just get one college degree. He went back to school for a second one. He is a relentless pursuer of greatness and a Louisville Cardinal at heart.