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October 21, 2009MORE: Army All-American Bowl selection tour | Army AA announcement gallery | Army AA Rosters
PORTLAND, Ore. - Owamagbe Odighizuwa was born in the United States but was sent to live with family in Nigeria at a young age, far away from America and the game of football.
Five years later, he returned to America.
And today, he is living the American dream.
In front of hundreds of Portland (Ore.) David Douglas High School classmates, teachers and parents, Odighizuwa became an Army All-American on Tuesday. Odighizuwa will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 9 in San Antonio.
Douglas football coach Dan Wood and his staff have known for a long time that Owa - as Odighizuwa is called - was special. The 6-foot-3, 234-pound defensive end, who also is a 200-meter sprinter, made a name for himself in the state of Oregon with a powerful speed rush.
Odighizuwa, however, didn't break onto the national scene until the Army All-American Combine in January.
"That was my big break," Odighizuwa said earlier this year. "I went and beat every player they put in front of me in the one-on-one competition. Texas, Florida and California, I competed against the best they had and beat them. It was a pride thing for me as they doubted me. Being from Oregon you get no respect, so I earned it."
Odighizuwa continued to build on his combine performance and now is ranked by Rivals.com as a five-star prospect, the No. 2 defensive end in the country and the No. 20 player overall. He has offers from Florida, Nebraska, Oregon, USC, California, Oregon State and UCLA.
And you can add Army All-American to his list of accomplishments.
"I never ever thought I would play in a game like this when I was young," Odighizuwa said. "In fact, I found out about the All-American Game my sophomore year and used to joke with the guys about playing in that game someday. I never, ever dreamed that it could happen and now it has. I am so excited."
So is his mother, who is known as AB (Ay-Be). Her Nigerian name is Abieyuwa. Odighizuwa credits her with the central role in his success, and she seemed overjoyed Tuesday. She realizes, however, that there is still a lot of work ahead.
"He needs to decide where he is going," she said. "I have told him to find a school and people he can be comfortable with. I do not want him to regret his choice. Wherever he goes he needs to get his degree and be happy with his school and community."
She said her son is a wonderful person and this whole experience has been a "dream."
Odighizuwa was born in the U.S. and at a young age was sent to live with family in Nigeria. Five years later he returned, and she feels this helped him understand his African heritage and roots and to appreciate all the opportunities here.
AB is finishing her second degree and will pursue a medical field. Odighizuwa has three brothers (two were with him on Tuesday, and they both attend David Douglas. His youngest brother is still in grade school).
Wood was invited to join Odighizuwa and will return to San Antonio for his second trip to the game.
"The Army All-American Game is an incredible experience," Wood said. "It is a tremendously good time and is one of the best-run events I have ever witnessed. Owa will represent Oregon and his school and make us all proud."