Tight end Ifeanyi Momah takes part in a recent Phase 2 drill for the Cardinals.
Ifeanyi Momah is where he belongs. It just took him a little while to figure that out.
At 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, the 25-year-old has blended in seamlessly with the rest of the tight ends during the Cardinals' offseason workouts. It would be a different story if he lined up with the wide receivers, where Momah would be four inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than the rest.
This is the path many envisioned for Momah coming out of Boston College in 2012. Originally, that didn't include him.
"My agent's been telling me since I first came out that I should be a tight end, but I was kind of stubborn," Momah said. "I was a receiver at heart."
Momah was a standout receiver at Elwood (New York) John Glenn High School. After a pedestrian start to his college career, he had eight catches for 171 yards in the first game of his senior season, but tore his ACL and missed the rest of the campaign. He applied for a sixth year of eligibility but was denied, and went undrafted. He had a pair of offseason stints with the Eagles, who allowed him to stay at the position, but neither opportunity resulted in a roster spot.
For nearly three years, Momah's agent continued pestering him about the position switch externally, and his body made the internal plea.
"When I got released in Philadelphia this past year in August, I knew something had to change," Momah said. "I was about 230 pounds and fighting to stay at that weight. I didn't feel strong. I didn't feel like myself."
After a week on the Browns practice squad in September, the Lions called in October and asked if Momah would try out as a tight end. That was the moment of reckoning, as he agreed to make the switch.
"It was the first time I ever put my hand on the ground in a workout," he said.
Momah didn't make the active roster with the Lions, but showed enough potential to earn a spot on their practice squad, where the inward belief grew that he could make it as a tight end. The Lions released Momah in February with a 'failure to disclose physical condition' designation, so he went to the NFL Veterans Combine in March, where he attracted the eye of several teams.
Momah chose to sign with the Cardinals, and now, following the sudden retirement of John Carlson earlier this month, is making his case for a roster
spot behind Troy Niklas and Darren Fells on the tight end depth chart.
"I can't say Mo's real name, but he's been really impressive the first week and a half," coach Bruce Arians said last week. "I'm going to need to learn how to say his name pretty soon because he's impressing me."
Momah will likely need to add more weight because tight end has more blocking responsibilities than a receiver, but that has come easily thus far. He said he's up 25 pounds without any drastic makeovers to his diet.
"I'm not trying to do anything," Momah said. "I just eat my regular three meals a day, protein after lifts. I've been doing that since January, and I was about 230 in January. Now I'm 255, just on a normal diet. I have a big frame. I'm a bigger guy and I put weight on fast. When I was in Philadelphia, I had to cut weight down, not really eat that much. Tight end is my natural position."
Fells and Niklas both weigh more than 270 pounds and are known as block-first tight ends. Carlson was the player with the best pass-catching ability, and while Momah knows it's imperative to be a good blocker, his receiver background puts him more in Carlson's mold.
Momah learned that it's hard being a tall wideout in the NFL, but hopes he can take that natural ability and convert himself into an impact tight end.
"When you get to the NFL, there are 5-(foot)-6 guys and 5-8 guys who can just run better, because they have a lower center of gravity and can get in and out of routes," Momah said. "I feel like I can keep up, but it wasn't easy. It was tough. Being inside and getting matched up with the safeties and linebackers, it's a huge difference than being matched up with corners – guys that can stay on your hip and run with you. I know I have a big advantage with that. I need to take advantage of it."
Images of the offensive players on the Cardinals' roster