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'I can't let them down': What DT Ruke Orhorhoro said about getting drafted by the Falcons

The Falcons traded up in the second round in order to select defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro with the No. 35 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — Defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro had unknowingly held his fate in the 2024 NFL Draft for two months in the form of an Atlanta Falcons hat.

The Falcons gifted Orhorhoro the piece of merchandise back in late February at the combine when the two parties met. Orhorhoro recalled the experience as "great meetings all around," so he kept the ball cap in his car ever since.

Or at least he did least until Thursday night, when Atlanta used the No. 35 overall pick to formalize the team gear.

"I got it on my head right now," Orhorhoro said, "so I'm glad I kept it."

Surely, the first of many for the now Falcons rookie.

Atlanta made a trade with the Arizona Cardinals to ensure it landed Orhorhoro. The Falcons received the Cardinals' No. 35 and 186 picks in exchange for their own No. 43 and 79 picks.

Basically, the Falcons moved up eight spots in the second round, lost a third-rounder and settled for another sixth-rounder.

"It means a lot," Orhorhoro said. "It means they really wanted me and they really saw something in me, man."

Orhorhoro is a five-year Clemson product, producing the most statistically in his final season. He started all 12 games he played in, making 22 tackles, five sacks and a pass breakup. He was a third-team All-ACC selection.

Clemson defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro (33) looks on during an NCAA college football game against North Carolina Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, in Clemson, S.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

When asked to describe his style of play, Orhorhoro chose the words fast, physical and aggressive.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney mirrored those claims.

"Ruke is a guy that I think everybody is in love with his measurables," Swinney said. "He's big, he's athletic, he's got great length, he can really run. He's got position diversity and can play multiple spots on the defensive line."

But then he elaborated.

"He's a high-character guy. He's a graduate," Swinney said. "The thing that everybody like about Ruke is that he's not quite a blank canvas, but he still very much has his best football in front of him."

Orhorhoro seems to know that, too, because he answered a question about how he can improve his game with just as much confidence as when he listed his strengths. The answer? Footwork, hand usage and setting blocks.

"You can always hone in on the little things like that," Orhorhoro said.

And the Falcons, he believes, can help him do just that, especially knowing there are veterans in his position group.

"Just the way they run their defense, I like the mentality," Orhorhoro said. "That's a place that's got guys I can learn from – Grady Jarrett, one of the Clemson all-time greats. It's just an honor to learn from a guy that's been in the league for that long. I can't wait. If I could do it today, I would do it right now."

Suffice to say the excitement is there.

Orhorhoro marked the Falcons' second draft pick, joining quarterback Michael Penix Jr. from the first round, with six remaining at the time of his selection.

"I can't let them down," Orhorhoro said, "and I'll do everything in my will power to not let them down."

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