With his future in mind, Wyoming offensive lineman Eric Abojei sheds significant weight

Wyoming offensive lineman Eric Abojei goes through a drill during spring practice Thursday at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. The Cowboys’ junior guard has lost approximately 50 pounds during the offseason.

LARAMIE — Big E isn’t quite as big anymore.

Eric Abojei, who’s earned the affectionate nickname from his Wyoming coaches and teammates over the years, has been a key cog on the Cowboys’ offensive line, but he’s never been this small. Of course, small is a relative term when talking about one of UW’s more imposing figures up front.

Abojei stands 6-foot-5 and, listed at 328 pounds on UW’s updated roster, is still the heaviest lineman on the team. Yet it’s one of the lightest weights Abojei has been during his college career, and he got there by dropping approximately 50 pounds since last season ended.

Abojei said he’s gotten as low as 321 pounds this offseason, a far cry from where he’s been much of the last four years. Abojei reported to UW at 320 pounds as a true freshman in 2017. After a redshirt year, he was listed at 351 pounds. Last season, as a fourth-year junior, Abojei said he ballooned north of 360 pounds.

“My body just felt really down and just not really feeling where I want to be at,” Abojei said.

So Abojei got serious about shedding the pounds. He said he committed more time to his offseason workout routine, but losing that much weight in a four-month span doesn’t happen without incorporating a strict diet, which Abojei said he had to overhaul.

Asked what the hardest food was to give up, Abojei answered, “Everything honestly.”

“I love to eat, and I love to cook especially,” Abojei said, “but learning to switch a lot of habits that weren’t the best for me. Making better habits, trying to incorporate healthier eating and making sure I’m taking in the right things and the right calories. And making sure I’m not putting on the calories I just burned off. That was probably the biggest thing for me this offseason.”

A knee injury cut Abojei’s sophomore season short in 2019, and he had surgery on his hand this offseason. But Abojei began spring practice feeling as healthy as he’s ever been thanks in large part to the weight loss, which he said has helped maximize his on-field performance.

He’s able to move better, and his improved physical stamina has made it easier to stay mentally focused throughout long, grueling practices. It was one of Abojei’s primary motivations to trim down in the first place.

“I feel more energized,” Abojei said. “I feel like I’m able to stay in practice longer (mentally). I’m not gassed out halfway through practice. I’m able to communicate better with my teammates because before, when I was 360, I wasn’t able to stay in practice. I wasn’t able to communicate well. I wasn’t able to be efficient with my technique. And now I feel like I’m energized and ready to go every single play.”

Now an upperclassman, Abojei said he also has his ultimate goal in mind: playing in the NFL.

Raw talent has never been an issue for the Minnesota native. A consensus three-star recruit coming out of Robbinsdale Cooper High in suburban Minneapolis, Abojei drew interest from Power Five schools and originally committed to the one in his home state, the University of Minnesota.

But a coaching change and an academic snag made Abojei reconsider his options. He ultimately chose UW, where he’s played in 24 games. He’s started half of those at left guard the last two seasons when healthy, earning a reputation as a mauler on the interior of an offensive line that’s paved the way for one of the nation’s top 40 rushing attacks each of the last three seasons.

Abojei knows his pass protection needs to improve. Frankly, he acknowledged, it’s an area in which the offensive line as a whole needs to be better after yielding 14 sacks in just six games a season ago.

But Abojei said any chance of improving his game not only for the rest of his time at UW but also for a shot at the next level had to start with being lighter on his feet.

“I have dreams and aspirations to make it to the next level,” he said. “And I knew deep inside that if I didn’t get my weight down, it wasn’t going to help me reach those goals.”

A slimmer and trimmer Abojei is now on a more realistic path.

“He’s really improved his physical conditioning,” UW coach Craig Bohl said, “and that’s really going to help him.”