(CBS Local)– Before his days in the NFL, David Njoku was known as a star athlete in New Jersey.

The Cleveland Browns tight end became a national champion in the high jump and a big time wide receiver at Cedar Grove High School. Njoku didn’t start playing football until middle school because his father didn’t want him on the gridiron.

“I started playing football in seventh and eighth grade,” said Njoku in an interview with CBS Local. “My father did not want me playing ball. He was fighting it left and right, but I held my ground. It was something that I really wanted to do and I ended up pursuing it.”

Njoku initially committed to Rutgers because it was his home school, but ended up going to the University of Miami. The decision paid off as the 22-year-old was a first round pick by the Browns in 2017 and will play with former New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. this season.

“I was in Los Angeles when I found out the news,” said Njoku. “I had a feeling a week prior, but I was very happy when I found out the news. We traded Jabrill Peppers who was a close friend of mine, but it’s business. I was happy that we got him and now it’s time to make a run.”

While Njoku is one of the up and coming tight ends in the league, he also represents a growing group of Nigerian players in the NFL. This means a great deal to him.

“We’re making a run for it. There is Emmanuel Ogbah, Larry Ogunjobi, BJ Bello. There are more players that are Nigerian that are coming up and I’m happy about that.”

Meanwhile, the Browns will be one of the favorites for the AFC North in 2019 and Njoku likes where his team is headed.

“My rookie year was kind of tragic, we went 0-16,” said Njoku. “It was not a fun thing to do. We bounced back this past season and went 7-8-1, which was definitely a big leap from that year. This year we have very high hopes and are looking to go as far as we can.”