Why He’s Interesting: Njoku is tasked with protecting a rookie quarterback one play and catching passes from him the next — proving that flexibility is essential for an NFL tight end. On HBO’s Hard Knocks, viewers saw how the 22-year-old uses meditation to visualize his playmaking ability. At 6-foot-4, 245 pounds, the New Jersey native and former high school high jumper is a tough cover for any linebacker or defensive back.
Hardly Noticed: HBO’s Hard Knocks put the Browns under the microscope during this season’s training camp. But to Njoku, it was just another day at work. “Honestly, it felt like camp but with a thousand more cameras. It wasn’t something to really stress over. You’ve just got to watch what you say, because it’s probably going to be on TV.”
Peaceful Player: Njoku discovered meditation in seventh grade when someone tried to hypnotize him. “Instead of being hypnotized, I felt more relaxed and more focused, and ever since I’ve been using that.” He follows guided videos and songs supplied by Browns mental performance coach Justin Su’a. “All it takes is five minutes per day to focus, free your mind and find ways to control your emotions.”
In The Trenches: The high school receiver transitioned to tight end at the University of Miami — and he also put on about 25 pounds. “I just got bigger, and it was time for me to put that hand in the dirt. Being a receiver, it was easy to run crisp routes and open my stride, but the hardest thing was learning to block those big guys like Khalil Mack and Myles Garrett. But I’m definitely improving rapidly.”
Days Off: Tuesday is often NFL players’ day off. After exercise and film study, Njoku often spends his time with children at Cleveland’s local hospitals. “I was with the kids for Halloween, making cakes and hanging out. Being raised in a Christian family, it’s in our nature to give back. I just do it a couple times a month because it makes me happy and it makes the kids happy.”
Leaps and Bounds: As a senior at New Jersey’s Cedar Grove High School, Njoku cleared 6 feet, 11 inches to win the national championship in high jump at the 2014 New Balance Nationals Outdoor. “I think it helps with explosive movement, going from still position to firing out off of blocks, flexibility and my ability to jump for balls.”
All Hail The Chief: Njoku earned his nickname, Chief, from being “almost identical” to his father, a successful Nigerian businessman in the oil industry. “His full name is Chief Innocent Njoku because of his accomplishments in our tribe and in America. I’m really proud of that. It’s very important to me, and I’m going to keep it and probably call my son Chief.”
Three and Out:
What’s making you laugh right now?
My dog, Africa, who is a mini labradoodle. She’s going ham right now.
What teammate is inspiring you right now?
[Browns receiver] Jarvis Landry is a great inspiration. First off, he’s a man of God. And he just does great things for the community. He brings awareness for cystic fibrosis. He’s also helping in LeBron James’ projects in the schools. He’s just a great person to look up to.
If your life was a hashtag what would it be?
#Lit. Just because I think I’m an easygoing guy. I enjoy having fun often.