Centerville’s Odenigbo in no rush – for once


Centerville DE Ifeadi Odenigbo

If Ifeadi Odenigbo would have
had a 3.5 GPA the second semester of his freshman year instead of a
3.6, there’s a good chance college recruiters would have no idea
who he is.
“I killed it second semester,” Odenigbo said. “It clicked for me.
Maturity hit at that time, and thank God for maturity.” Thank God indeed…

If Ifeadi Odenigbo would have
had a 3.5 GPA the second semester of his freshman year instead of a
3.6, there’s a good chance college recruiters today would have no idea
who he is.

of the nation’s top class of 2012 prospects, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound
Odenigbo had to prove to his parents he was on solid ground in the
Centerville (Ohio) High classroom before he could put the helmet and
pads on and play football. He was told a 3.3 cumulative GPA was the bar
set for the first year of high school. Attain that mark and you can

Unfortunately, Odenigo didn’t get off to a great start that first
semester, putting his football ambition into a major hole.

“I killed it second semester,” Odenigbo said. “It clicked for me.
Maturity hit at that time, and thank God for maturity. I started to
become well aware of my surroundings.”

Soon, college coaches became well aware of Odenigbo. Ranked as
the nation’s top outside linebacker and No. 49 recruit overall by
247Sports, Odenigbo has narrowed his list of college suitors down to
California, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Stanford.

The son of Nigerian immigrants, the Odenigo family never saw any
of this coming. Ifeadi’s parents Thomas and Linda were using football as
a reward for the good grades that were ultimately going to get him into
college. They certainly didn’t anticipate football giving their son an
opportunity to attend several of the country’s most prestigious academic

“I didn’t know very much about football,” Thomas said. He came to
America in 1990. “I consider myself a conservative dad. I was thinking
football was brutal. I didn’t want him to get hurt. I didn’t know about
football till I relocated to the United States. When I first moved to
the United States., I didn’t watch very much football. I like
basketball, I like soccer, I like tennis. I wanted him to play
basketball and I wanted him to play soccer, but he chose to play
football. We held him back from playing football until we saw academic

Magic gloves

Centerville coach and athletic director
Ron Ullery has coached his fair share of talented players going back to
his days as an assistant with the school beginning in 1977. The head
coach since 2000, Ullery has worked with the likes of Green Bay Packers
linebacker A.J. Hawk, current Ohio State freshman defensive lineman
Michael Bennett and ESPN Analyst and former Buckeyes signal-caller Kirk

Ullery too had no idea that Odenigbo would add
to the list of high-profile Centerville standouts.

“He was very raw, Ullery stated. “Pretty mediocre but he could
run. He had played in middle school, some receiver, but he was not very
good at all.”

Ullery knew he had a defensive lineman in Odenigbo. The problem
was, the sophomore just didn’t like contact.

Odenigbo was timid and worried about a serious injury every time
he stuck his nose in to make a play, which wasn’t very often.

“I was quite awful,” Odenigbo laughed. “I never grew up watching
football. Me coming into sophomore year was so fast paced and
overwhelming because these varsity guys knew what they were doing and
I’m brand new to the game and I’m struggling.”

Then like it clicked in the classroom, it started to come
together for Odenigbo on the field. Eight weeks into that first season,
one minor thing changed the landscape of Odenigbo’s career on the

Cutter Gloves.

“I don’t really tell people this because it sounds crazy,”
Odenigbo began. “It sounds crazy but what really helped were these
Cutter Gloves. My mom bought them during week seven or week eight. For
some reason I had really skinny hands. Everyone else on the D-line had
these thick strong hands. I had trouble every time I went against
blockers, my fingers would screw up. I got the gloves and it made it so
much easier to hit and separate and my hands were being protected.”

At that point, the Centerville coaching staff was on board with
anything that would help Odenigbo play better.

“Talk to my D-line coach,” Odenigbo said. “He can tell you that.
He tells me, Ifeadi, make sure you have your gloves on. Over two years,
my fingers have gotten strong enough. I could play without gloves but my
fingers do get bent up.”

Odenigbo started making an impact in varsity games that first
year as a pass rusher off the edge. Last season he racked up 10.5 sacks.

“I think the physical aspect of the game is where he improved the
most,” Ullery said. “He had the speed and athleticism he was gifted
with. Using his hands as a defensive lineman and using leverage he’s
gotten better, and combining that with the great balance that he has.
He’s become a hitter.”

And he’s become an elite talent.

“Athletically he’s the same level or above A.J. Hawk and Michael
Bennett, which are two of the very, very best as far as potential we’ve
had,” Ullery said. “A.J. was an outstanding football player when he came
out of here, but he made himself a first round draft pick. He had
tremendous drive. That remains to be seen with Ifeadi.”

Capitalizing on the situation

Odenigbo is taking
full advantage of the hand he’s been dealt by football.

“I have a 3.2 GPA,” Odenigbo said. “I’m pretty sure I couldn’t
get into Stanford or Northwestern or Notre Dame or even Ohio State if I
didn’t play football. I thought, how can I make the best of these
football scholarships? I said I’ll go to a school I wouldn’t have
normally gotten into. I think if you’re around smart people, you become

This past summer, Odenigbo and his parents were able to visit
each of his five finalists. He originally thought he’d have a decision
before the start of his senior season and even told college coaches so.

“Someone could flip a coin and tell me I’m going to one of these
schools and I’d be perfectly fine with that,” Odenigbo said. “I’m
looking for that one unique school that has something that makes it
standout from the others. It’s going to be my gut feeling.”

Odenigbo added that these five programs have been recruiting him
the longest and he keeps in touch with them on a weekly basis. One of
his latest calls from California assistant Tosh Lupoi really

“He called me right before the Fresno State game,” Odenigbo said.
“He called me in the tunnel and said we’re about to play Fresno State
and we’re going to win the game, and I just want to let you know how
important you are. They did beat Fresno State and I watched the game.
It’s just a great coaching staff, and Coach Tosh is what’s made Cal
stick out. That guy has so much passion.”

California also has what Odenigbo is looking for in the

“They have the number one computer science program in the nation.
And it’s California. You have to love the West Coast laid back feeling.
My parents joke around and say your personality is West Coast because
you’re never mad. You’re a happy kid.”

Odenigbo is very happy with what he’s seen and heard from
Northwestern and Notre Dame.

“What makes Northwestern, it’s Coach Fitzgerald,” Odenigbo said.
“When I think of passion, the first thing I think of is Coach
Fitzgerald. I remember when I went on my visit, even when he spoke to
us, you see he has passion. I know in a game, that coach will keep his
composure and fire the team up. You want a coach that can fire you up
and give you a good pep speech. That program is turning around and they
beat Boston College which is very impressive. It’s a great academic
school. It’s a very nice location. It’s outside of Chicago and it’s such
a great place.

“What makes Notre Dame very, very special is I’m Catholic myself.
I go to church every Sunday. I’ve been raised up believing in God and
thanking God and being humble and knowing God has your back. I’ve
watched Notre Dame since I was a little kid. I’ve always been Catholic
and had a special interest in the school. Notre Dame got me right away
when they offered me. I’m a big fan of the coaching staff. Coach (Tim)
Hinton has so much energy. I’ve never seen a coach with so much energy. I
get fired up talking to him on the phone. They’re a phenomenal
institution. Say I don’t make the NFL, I know whatever degree I have,
and whatever place I apply to, they see a Notre Dame degree and they’ll
look at me over a person with another degree.”

Odenigbo is looking to take his official visit to Notre Dame for
the USC game the weekend of Oct. 22. He’s never attended a college
football game, and his first could come at Ohio State on Oct. 1 for the
Michigan State game. Those are the only two trips he currently has on
the radar.

“Centerville is known for Ohio and Ohio State commits,” Odenigbo
said. “Kirk Herbstreit, Mike Nugent, A.J. Hawk, there have been a lot of
legends and people that have gone to Ohio State. Also my teammate
Michael Bennett and he’s getting a whole bunch of playing time. It’s
everywhere I go. I grew up on Ohio State. It’s such a great atmosphere. I
love the state of Ohio.”

Cincinnati was the first BCS program to offer Odenigbo, followed
by Stanford.

“I can go on about Stanford,” he said. “Just how it’s such an Ivy
League school. I think their computer science program is rated two or
three. The people there are nice and humble. The coaches are awesome
people. I’m very close to the whole coaching staff. I met all the
football players when I went there in the summer, and the most important
thing I noticed about Stanford is everyone is humble. That was the most
surprising part. They’re the smartest people in the world and they
don’t tell you that. You could walk down the hall past a Stanford kid
and have no idea unless you ask them. Stanford football right now is
amazing. They won the Orange Bowl last year and they’re ranked No. 3 or
No 4 in the nation right now. They’re getting good recruits and I talked
to them on Facebook. They all added me.”

Odenigbo’s father thinks a decision will come before the calendar
flips to 2012.

“It’s a decision he’s going to make himself,” Thomas said. “We’re
interested in where they play good football, and where they have a very
good education. He’s a very well behaved child. He’s the kind of child
anyone would want to have. He listens to us. He knows what to do.”

It’s a good thing Odenigbo knew what he had to do three years go.

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