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January 5, 2010

Odighizuwa perfectly suited for football stardom

MORE: East Team Monday stars | West Team Monday stars | Army All-American Bowl coverage

SAN ANTONIO - He wanted to stop playing football. Owamagbe Odighizuwa was more interested in basketball his sophomore year and wanted that to be his focus.

Football was never his first love and after "dodging it" his seventh grade year he begrudgingly played it to please some friends the next school year. It wasn't an instant hit. Odighizuwa, from Portland (Ore.) David Douglas, still wanted to focus on hoops.

"I still wasn't that into [football]," Odighizuwa said.

Playing football his freshman year was fun but it wasn't that exciting since he considered giving it up the next season. For some reason, unknown even to Odighizuwa, he decided to give it another shot and after doing well realized he could do this. Maybe this could be something good.

"It was ridiculous," Odighizuwa said. "I wanted to get into basketball and play a lot of that and get better at it and see what my future was there but when I got into football that's what I've been doing ever since."

After years of pushing football aside, Odighizuwa finally embraced the sport that would make him one of the hottest commodities in the 2010 recruiting class.

Odighizuwa finished with 96 tackles and 18 sacks his junior season but still wasn't known nationally. That changed at the U.S. Army National Combine, where he was named a first-team defensive end by Rivals.com.

At that event, he whipped offensive linemen in one-on-one drills. He outmuscled them or used his speed to blow by them. He did it all with a bum ankle. Odighizuwa has shown that type of dominance and intensity so far in U.S. Army All-American Bowl practice, too.

"He brings such quickness coming off the edge," said Kansas City (Mo.) Rockhurst coach Tony Severino, coaching the West defensive line this week.

"A very coachable kid who listens to you, he has great technique coming around the corner. There are some things we're working on with him but he's going to be a great player. I have a pretty good group. He and Ronald [Powell] are something else."

No one could stop Odighizuwa at the Army Combine, and everyone in the Alamodome was rushing around trying to figure out more about this Pacific Northwest kid - and how to pronounce his name. Major colleges would have no problem quickly figuring it all out.

Odighizuwa came to the Army Combine with offers from Oregon and Oregon State, a nice regional player but not someone who would become a national name. USC, UCLA, Florida, LSU, Nebraska and other big shots would soon be involved.

"It was maybe two weeks [after the Combine] and I got interviews for getting defensive MVP and then some letters starting pouring in and then some offers started following up," Odighizuwa said. "It's been definitely difficult narrowing down the list. I had to tell some schools they weren't in the mix. I've developed a good relationship with a lot of coaches.

"I've seen athletes who were getting recruited and heard about them on TV. I never thought it was going to be me. I just played football because it was fun. When I figured out I could play on the next level, it clicked in my head, that's something I want to do, use it to get more opportunities in life and just expand myself."

USC, UCLA, Oregon, Oregon State and Nebraska are the final five for Odighizuwa, who said an in-home visit with the Ducks has been scheduled. He will also have an in-home with the Cornhuskers. Odighizuwa expects coach Bo Pelini to be there.

California had long been considered a favorite for Odighizuwa because of his relationship with defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi but he surprisingly eliminated the Bears recently.

"Just my comfort level with other schools compared to them," Odighizuwa said. "I just felt like it was something I had to do. It wasn't easy because I developed a really good relationship with Tosh, he's a great coach, he's a great guy. I just felt like I needed to go a different direction."

In Odighizuwa's life he's taken many directions. Born in Columbus, Ohio, Odighizuwa and his family moved to Nigeria when he was three and lived there for five years. Then he moved back to Dayton, Ohio, where he lived for eight months before moving to Grundy, Va., for about 1 years. When Odighizuwa was 10, he finally landed in Portland where he's been ever since.

Now he's looking for a new home - and whether that's in Pasadena, Westwood, Eugene, Corvallis or Lincoln, not even Odighizuwa knows yet.

"I'm a big fan of the kid personally because he's soft-spoken, he works tremendously hard and has proven that he will be a success at whichever school he chooses," Rivals.com national recruiting editor Jeremy Crabtree said. "Fans of those programs should put Odighizuwa at the top of their wish lists because he's that special of a player."



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