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From Subway to the Combine: Vanderbilt LB Anfernee Orji Ready to Take the Next Step to the NFL


INDIANAPOLIS – Former Vanderbilt linebacker Anfernee Orji worked at a Subway sandwich shop in high school, and to hear him tell it, he tackled it with open arms.

"I did it all," a smiling Orji said from the NFL Combine on Wednesday. "I cleaned, I made the sandwiches, packed meal prep, all that stuff. I feel like I was employee of the year. I feel like I was the best employee (Subway) ever had, but I'm a little biased."

Orji also played the viola in his school's orchestra in Rockwall, Texas. He began playing the instrument at a young age, and played in school from the fifth grade to the 11th grade.

"To play viola, you have to practice like crazy," Orji said. "I was always practicing. My excuse is my fingers were too big to play in tune, but I still got it done. I loved (playing) viola, and I loved orchestra."

Now Orji is at the NFL Combine, hoping to give NFL scouts, coaches and executives even more reasons to pick him after a productive career with the Commodores.

A team captain in 2022, Orji led the Commodores with 108 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, and three forced fumbles while starting in 12 games. Orji also led Vanderbilt in tackles in 2020 and 2021, when he also led the team with 13 tackles for a loss.

At Vanderbilt, he played under head coaches Derek Mason and Clark Lea.

"It was a great experience at Vandy – I came in as a safety, and I was about 210 (pounds), so I was a bit smaller than I am right now," said Orji, who's now 6-1, 230. "I've had four different position coaches, four different defensive coordinators and two different head coaches, so I learned a lot of ball, which was a great experience.

"I (got) to talk ball in different vernaculars, and also was able to get coached by great men, which helped me. And just being able to experience the things I experienced at Vanderbilt helped mold me."

Orji, a four-star recruit out from Rockwall High, proved his versatility even before his college playing days.

In addition to playing in the orchestra and working at Subway, Orji also wrestled his freshman and sophomore year in high school, and he played basketball and ran track. He was class president three of his four high school years.

He believes he found his calling at football, even with other interests down the road.

Orji was a Communication of Science and Technology major at Vanderbilt.

"I really wanted to do something with engineering or field production, that's why I chose that path," Orji said of his degree. "But right now, I am really focused on football, doing what I can to play football.

"Football is my first sport – I've played it since I was five. I knew football was for me, and I love every little thing about it."

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