No. 18 more than just a number for Cardinals rookie BJ Ojulari

May 18, 2023, 4:03 PM | Updated: 4:03 pm

BJ Ojulari at Cardinals rookie minicamp...

Arizona Cardinals pass rusher BJ Ojulari runs through drills during rookie minicamp on Friday, May 12. 2023, in Tempe. (Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

(Tyler Drake/Arizona Sports)

TEMPE — On the surface, jersey numbers are just that, numbers.

For those like Arizona Cardinals rookie pass rusher BJ Ojulari, though, the digits on the front and the back of his uniform represent much more.

He’s worn multiple numbers throughout his playing career, but there’s one in particular that stands out above the rest in No. 18.

Ojulari rocked it in the bayou. Now, he’ll rock it in the desert.

“It’s a big deal for me just with 18 being so big at LSU,” Ojulari said last Thursday. “I’m just so thankful to the organization for letting me wear 18 coming into the next level. I’m definitely going to represent it very well. Represent the state of Louisiana, Georgia and now the state Arizona.”

“(Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon) called me (2-3 days after the draft) and was like, ‘We’re going to put you in 18. You fine with that?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, most definitely.'”

Ojulari and No. 18 have gone hand in hand with one another since the offseason ahead of his senior season at LSU this past year. It’s a number held in high regard in Baton Rouge, which is awarded yearly to the player who best exemplifies everything the program stands for.

As for the significance of the number, you have to take a stroll down memory lane.

After watching his sophomore season come to a close due to a foot injury in 2002, former LSU quarterback and No. 18 wearer Matt Mauck rebounded in a big way the following season, highlighted by the program’s first national championship since 1958.

It wasn’t so much about the stats for Mauck — he threw for 2,825 yards and 28 touchdowns to 14 interceptions on 64% passing — as it was about his perseverance and dedication to return to action amid all the adversity.

From there, a tradition was born, with Mauck passing down the number to running back Jacob Hester and so on and so forth. Coincidentally enough, Ojulari marked the 18th member of the exclusive No. 18 club.

Now, it’s about leaving his mark at the highest level.

Luckily for Ojulari, he’s got a solid voice to lean on in his brother and current New York Giants linebacker Azeez Ojulari.

His older brother’s influence has helped BJ Ojulari as he continues to carve out his own NFL path.

But when the Cardinals and Giants meet at State Farm Stadium in Week 2, it’s go time.

“I’m real excited, the whole family is already talking about that game,” the rookie said. “It’s going to be great just to go against my brother. I haven’t played on the same field with him in a long time. It’s going to be great for me, my brother and the whole family.”

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