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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Josh Imatorbhebhe, WR, Illinois

Could Imatorbhebhe fit in the Colts’ offense?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 Illinois at Michigan State Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A fan-favorite series is coming back to the site as it is officially prospect interview season. For anybody new to the site or for people who need a reminder, every draft season I sit down with prospects that are going to be in the upcoming NFL Draft to talk with them about their off-field accomplishments and some film aspects on the field. While I don’t always talk to star players, I have been able to talk to a few players who eventually ended up with the Colts such as Khari Willis, Marvell Tell III, and Rock Ya-Sin.

Our next prospect interview is with Illinois wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe. We had a great conversation about his journey from USC to Illinois, his insane athletic abilities, and his favorite route to run as a receiver.


Background

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 220 pounds

Class: Senior

Imatorbhebhe was a former four-star recruit out of North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia. He committed to play at USC after jumping an insane 47.1 inch vertical at a Nike SPARQ even as a senior in high school. After an up and down two seasons at USC, he decided to transfer to Illinois to finish out his college career.

He had moderate success in his time at Illinois, as he was a Fourth Team All-Big Ten selection in 2019. He finished his career with 57 catches for 942 yards (16.5 yards per reception) and 12 touchdowns. He participated at the Hula Bowl this offseason after his senior year.

ZH: How was the transition for you when you transferred from a place like USC to a place like Illinois?

JI: It was definitely... extremely interesting. Different types of people live in the Midwest than the West Coast for sure (laughs). It was a different type of environment, just complete night and day differences between the two. I loved both of the places though. They couldn’t have been any more different but I enjoyed my time at both and I feel like I transitioned well at Illinois.

ZH: So there was a viral video of you prior to USC where you did the vertical jump at 47.1 inches. How is that even possible? It looks like you are floating in the video.

JI: So this was at the Nike opening and— I guess it was a couple of weeks before the opening— I was so nervous before that day because it was three weeks before the opening and I hadn’t done proper training or anything at that point. So, I just literally practiced on my own. I practiced that vertical jump on my mat at home, maybe, 30 times a day for like a week straight. So, that training compiled with the adrenaline I had at the time just kept me up there.


Athletic Ability

ZH: Going to your film and that athleticism just stands out. You are excellent at stretching the field and beating guys vertically. Do you think that athleticism is a huge aspect of your game?

JI: I definitely think that it is something that is foundational, it is something that I can build off of. I have worked hard in terms of improving how quick I am, how explosive I am, and how I am able to accelerate but I definitely feel like I have a really good baseline in that area. It is something that I can build off of too in terms of adding more precise technique and stuff like that.

ZH: When you add to your baseline, is there a lot of fieldwork involved, or is it more in the weight room?

JI: I would say it is a combination of both but, I’d definitely say that the weight room plays a huge part in it. How much you squat and how much you power clean... not even how much, but how quickly you are able to move the plate. You know what I’m saying? That is what is going to determine how explosive you will be on the field. You know, guys that have these huge cinder block legs and can’t move quickly, it’s because they don’t train quickly! If you want to be explosive, you have to train explosive. How you do things off the field directly impacts what you do on the field.


RACability

ZH: I love how you transition with the ball in your hands. Is that part of your mindset with the ball, turning into a running back in the open field?

JI: Sure, 100% yes. I just have this sense of urgency every time I have the ball to score as quickly as possible. It is like this desperation that kind of grabs hold of you and, you do what you gotta do. You break a couple of tackles and find a seem and then you take it all the way for six. I just can’t explain it. It’s like this nervous energy that overtakes you, really truly, and you just turn into Spiderman. Your senses are so acute and you just want to dodge, or jump over, or stiff arm anybody to get where you are trying to get.


Film Study

ZH: I’m always curious about the film element of different positions. As a receiver, are you watching the entire defense, or specific corners, or what exactly are you studying?

JI: It depends on the opponent more than anything else. If it is somebody who is great and technically sound, I may make my film prep a little bit more about him and how to beat him. Typically though, I focus on me and how I’m going to perfect my craft during the week so I can sauce this guy when game time comes. If it is a guy who is a top talent then you have to spend extensive amounts of time studying their habits, their techniques, you know what I mean? The more film study you do, allows you to have a better plan of attack come game day.


Favorite Route

ZH: What was your favorite route to run in college?

JI: I honestly like the five-step. I think they call it the bang eight in the NFL (essentially a skinny post). It is simple but it is so effective. You stare your defender in the eye, you run at him for about 12 yards, then you get skinny and the ball should be on you. The simplicity of the game always amazes me. There are some concepts where you will dive in and then you’ll whip back out on a naked (bootleg) or whatever but I like things that are simple and the bang eight is my favorite route.


Pro Comparison

ZH: So I have a pro comparison in mind for you but I want to hear yours first. Who in the NFL do you model your game after?

JI: Model my game after? Dang. I’m different than a lot of receivers. If I’m being honest, I’d say AJ Brown or DK Metcalf. They were actually at the Nike opening that I jumped at i high school, so I’m close to them. I’m sort of a combination of the two. A little bit taller than AJ and a little bit smaller than DK, but I play with the same type of explosion and strength that they play with. So, like, a combination of the two. My favorite receiver though is Amari Cooper.

ZH: What do you like about Amari Cooper?

JI: I just love how quick he is, man. I love how instinctual he is, how patient he is at the line, just like... every little thing, man. I watched him at Alabama and I thought he was the perfect receiver. Honestly. I thought there were no flaws in his game. He was the perfect receiver truly.

ZH: So my comparison for you was actually going to be DK Metcalf by the way so, I’m glad we are on the same wavelength there. The way he wins in the NFL is what I see in your game.

JI: DK is one of my friends. I’m actually in Arizona training with him at this facility. He has really been instrumental in this whole process for me. What I saw happen to him and how his college career went, and how his NFL career is going after that, is giving me a lot of hope to know that my potential can be tapped into in the NFL.


NFL Outlook

ZH: What is my team getting if they draft you in this class?

JI: You are getting somebody who gives all they got to all they do. Someone once asked, what does it take to be successful? I believe all it takes is all you got. I don’t feel like there are any shortcuts and I’m someone who certainly doesn’t take any shortcuts in life. I give everything I have to everything I do and whatever is asked of me, I’m gonna do it.

Somebody who wants to compete and somebody who wants to dominate, if I’m being honest. I just bring a different type of energy to the game. Off the field, you are getting somebody who loves people and loves to connect with people. I just love to get to know people and have their back so yeah, someone who loves people.


Final Thoughts

This was an absolute blast of an interview and Josh Imatorbhebhe certainly caught my attention. I already liked his film and thought he was a freak on the field, but the insight into his thought process, his personality, and his work ethic really won me over, personally.

I think he fits a lot of the criteria that Chris Ballard likes in his receivers. He is an athletic freak, great after the catch, and excels at high pointing the ball in traffic. If the Colts plan on running more RPO looks this year, Imatorbhebhe would be an excellent addition. The Colts have already met with him at the Hula Bowl and over the phone so the interest is certainly there.