Highly-touted recruit Ifeadi Odenigbo will play for Northwestern as a backup defensive end against Vanderbilt. He met with the media Wednesday and had a lot to say about the adjustment to college, switching from linebacker to defensive end and his family background.
You ready for action Saturday?
Yeah, I’m pretty excited for this opportunity.
Were you surprised when they said the (redshirt) was coming off?
No, because unfortunately my teammate (got hurt), so I’m the next guy in line, so it’s whatever is best for the team, so I’m pretty excited that I finally get my opportunity to play.
A couple weeks ago, did you still think you’d be redshirted?
I don’t know, actually. I didn’t really take much thought into it — it was whatever the coaches wanted — and when Deonte got hurt I knew it was my time, so I want to make the best of it.
How far have you come?
I’ve come a long way, as in, the whole time I was being recruited as a linebacker, so in my mind I was like, “Alright, I’m going to be a linebacker. I don’t have to get that big.” The first two days I was at linebacker. I was kind of hesitant, but they kept on making me do pass-rushing drills, so they’ve come to realize that’s my true bread and butter, so they moved me to d-line. So it’s been going pretty well now.
Have you put on weight since then?
Yeah. I came, I believe, the first day they weighed me, I ewas at 209. As of now, I’m currently at 230, so I’m putting on a whole bunch of weight right now.
Have you been eating a lot, then? How is that?
The biggest issue, I know, everyone was concerned about me gaining weight, but I ran track — I ran the 400 meters, the 300 hurdles. I mean, it’s kind of hard to gain weight when you’re running in circles. So now that I’m not running in circles, it’s pretty easy to gain weight.
Do you have some pass-rushing moves?
It’s whatever the offensive tackle gives me. If he’s leaning toward me, I do a natural spin move. If he doesn’t want to engage me I just try to speed rush him or just try to bull rush him, but we’ll find out this weekend.
Are you concerned about your size? Are you hoping to put on more weight in the future?
That’s the plan right now, to put on more weight, but I’m not really worried about the size because the school I went to consisted of 3,000 people, so kids I would go against every week would weigh around 280 to 300, so I had a lot of Division 1 athletes in my area, so I’m not too worried about that.
A year ago at this time did you picture yourself always being a linebacker?
I would go back and forth. I’m like, “Alright, I’m really being a linebacker. They say I have speed, they say I have the athleticism to adapt, so I’ll probably redshirt because I’ve never played linebacker before.”
I was a true DE (in high school). I played DE the whole time. The biggest issue, when Coach Fitzgerald and Coach Bates came to my house, I was 205 and they just looked at me like, “Man, this kid can’t be a DE. We can try him at linebacker.”
You weren’t allowed to play football until sophomore year of high school?
Yeah, sophomore year, because my mom and dad were both born and raised in Nigeria, so the main sport was soccer, so I was playing soccer all my life, but I was telling my parents I wanted to play football. And they were like, “No, no.” Like, they don’t get this American sport, like why two people hit each other in the head.
So my parents told me if I had a 3.5 (GPA) my freshman year they would let me go out for the football team. I did that my freshman year, so sophomore year I played.
The first time your parents saw you running into people, what was it like for them?
I have a story to tell you. My dad, to this day, still doesn’t understand football. Junior year I’m playing against Wayne and Braxton Miller, so our team scored a touchdown and my dad started jumping up and yelling, “home run, home run.” So my mom wouldn’t forget that.
How about now? What’s the level of understanding?
Well, they’re getting better at it. My dad is trying really hard to understand it, but he’s just like, “If it makes you happy, I’m happy.”
Will they be at the game Saturday?
Yeah they’ll be there. My grandma is coming, too, so this will be her first football game.
- Odenigbo was asked what his grandma’s name was and he replied, “something long and Nigerian. Sorry, I just call her grandma.”
- His full first name means “nothing is greater than God.”
- His middle name is Anthony.
- Odenigbo on his middle name: “I’m Catholic, so my parents named me after Saint Anthony. And the reason they got Anthony was because, my dad wouldn’t tell me, but he lost something really important, and so you pray to Saint Anthony to help you find things. So my dad found something so he said he was going to name this second born — his middle name — Anthony. So that’s how I got Anthony.”