Charles Omenihu is living proof that a change of scenery can provide a significant boost to and dramatically change the course of an NFL career.
When the former University of Texas standout and Big 12 Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year became stuck on the Houston Texans’ bench last year after two promising seasons, a trade to the San Francisco 49ers made a huge difference for Omenihu and his new football team.
Acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick, Omenihu, 25, has emerged as the second-best pass rusher on a stout 49ers defense this season behind Pro Bowl defensive end Nick Bosa.
Omenihu, 25, a former fifth-round draft pick who had seven sacks and a pressure rate of 9 percent with the Texans, is in the final year of his rookie contract before free agency. Between his upgraded conditioning and diet and increasingly polished pass rushing moves, Omenihu has become a much more dynamic and consistent contributor this season. He has an overall pressure rate of 14.3 percent since joining the 49ers.
Omenihu has been tough to budge in run-stopping situations at the line of scrimmage while also showing the flexibility and explosiveness of a traditional edge rusher.
He has recorded a sack in each of the past three games and has three for the season along with seven quarterback hits overall and 19 pressures, ranking second behind Bosa, who is tied for the NFL lead with six sacks, in pressures. Omenihu also has 12 hurries.
The momentum started rolling for Omenihu last season when the Rowlett, Texas native had 1 1/2 sacks, a forced fumble and three quarterback hits in a playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys, relentlessly pressuring quarterback Dak Prescott.
In a telephone conversation this week, Omenihu discussed the 49ers’ key matchup Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and elusive quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
How do you feel like you and the defense have performed so far heading into this big game?
“I think overall the defense has been pretty solid. We had a hiccup last week. We definitely want to come back this week strong and continue our dominant play. As for me, I think probably since the Seattle game I’ve been picking it up and putting things together. I want to continue to do that as long as I can.”
What has led to your personal improvement?
“Yeah, I worked for this moment for years. I got to capitalize and keep on capitalizing. I have this fear of failure and that keeps me going. and pushes me to never take my foot off the gas. I’ve just been more explosive, understanding how to rush, angles, the technicalities of everything. I’m a lot better at it.”
How much has the coaching of defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek made a difference in your game since the trade?
“Definitely, it’s been a great move being here, being with these guys. I love it. I love the defense. I love the staff, the style of play, how they put us in position to make plays.”
What are the keys to containing Patrick Mahomes?
“We’ve got a really good opponent this week. We need to make plays. You’ve got to definitely keep pressure on him, on all four angles, understanding he’s a quarterback you’ve got to be smart about and continue to be relentless. It’s a game where he’ll run around, spin around and try to make the big play.”
What is your training like with Jeremy Hills at the Kollective in Austin?
“I was really big with my chef in Austin this offseason, making sure I’m on top of my diet. I was also doing boxing. I really went in this offseason, trying to put my foot on the gas. I did Pilates, yoga and boxing on the same day. I took time to revamp myself and be a better athlete.”
What’s your favorite meal from your chef?
“Lamb chops, rice and asparagus.”
What are your goals?
“I’m chasing greatness. I definitely want to get back to where we were. The biggest thing is to finish and it starts with this game this Sunday.”
Was the Dallas playoff game a confidence-booster?
“Definitely, it meant a lot to do that in front of everybody at the crib. It was good to have that performance. It was good to know I haven’t lost anything.”
So, the fresh start and the trade has worked out?
“The trade worked, for sure, bro. It’s been good. Appreciate you, bro.”