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Folks around town rooting for Nwagbuo

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 3, 2009.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

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    [​IMG]







    Intriguing local-kid-makes-good story brewing on Chargers defensive line

    By Tod Leonard
    Union-Tribune Staff Writer
    Originally published 4:40 p.m. September 2, 2009, updated 11:20 p.m., September 2, 2009


    If Ogemdi Nwagbuo were to be on the Chargers' roster come the start of the regular season – and his chances were looking good until the team's acquisition this week of Travis Johnson – there would be people all over San Diego County scrutinizing the defensive line like never before.


    They are the clerks at the Mission Valley IKEA, only a few hundred yards from Qualcom Stadium, where Nwagbuo worked while taking a year off from football at Southwestern College. They are the agents at Enterprise Rent-A-Car near Lindbergh Field, where he chose to earn paychecks after the New York Giants cut him last summer.


    They are the numerous local coaches who came to not only like the affable hard worker, but to gushingly praise him for having the gumption and ethic to build himself, from scratch, into a legitimate football player.


    Not many athletes go from playing three snaps in high school to contending for a spot on an NFL team. Nwagbuo (pronounced new-ah-bo) is doing it, in his hometown no less.


    Count on Dionicio Monarrez being one of those guys hoping he'll someday see Nwagbuo playing on the field at Qualcomm.


    “God, it's incredible. We're all just so proud of him,” said Monarrez, Nwagbuo's defensive coordinator at Southwestern.


    It was Enterprise's loss when the Chargers signed Nwagbuo – everybody calls him “O.G.” – to their practice squad in December. The 6-foot-4, 303-pound former starter at Michigan State came into this summer's training camp with an outsider's chance of making the team. But with defensive end Jacques Cesaire hampered by a calf injury, his backup, Ryon Bingham, out indefinitely with a torn triceps, and nose tackle Jamal Williams taking prolonged breaks, Nwagbuo seized the opportunity to display his wares. He has been in for more plays (113) than any other defender this preseason.



    “He's shown he can play there,” Chargers head coach Norv Turner said. “He can play end and nose. He's been a pleasant surprise, though I shouldn't say surprise because from the first day of the offseason workouts he has busted his butt. He wants to be good.”


    The 23-year-old Nwagbuo played with the first unit in Saturday's game against Atlanta, and he and Luis Castillo were the only starters to work into the third quarter.


    “It's definitely going pretty good,” Nwagbuo said. “I'm just trying to get better every day. That's all I can do. I can't look at the big picture. I feel like I have a lot of work to do, but I feel like I'm getting better.”



    Six years ago, Nwagbuo knew as much about playing defensive line as he did about quantum physics. He said he played in one game at Mount Miguel as a high school junior, but after briefly attending Patrick Henry the same year he wasn't eligible to play when he returned to the Mount. Miguel campus as a senior.



    Enormous, with quick feet, Nwagbuo tried out but didn't make the basketball team at Mount Miguel his sophomore year and didn't try out again. He played recreationally as a power forward and said he was considering going out for basketball at Southwestern when a coach wondered if he might want to try football.


    “I didn't really care about football when I was growing up,” Nwagbuo said. “All I knew about it was from watching it on TV.”



    Monarrez was all too happy to take on a project who potentially had so much upside.


    “He was real green,” Monarrez said. “His stance looked ugly. His running looked ugly. But come to find out, he could really play football.



    “He did everything you told him. He never looked over his shoulder. He was mentally and physically tough. He's a bright kid. And he could handle pain. In a game, he'd get cut from both sides. Some guys, that's hard for them to deal with. O.G. dealt with it. You could tell this guy was going to be a special person.”



    Nwagbuo wowed Mike Pompa, Southwestern's head coach in 2005, with his athleticism.



    “Anybody who can play defensive line in football and power forward in basketball is a tremendous athlete,” Pompa said. “You don't see that combination very often.”



    Said Nwagbuo: “I've tried to be a hard worker because that's the only way you get anywhere in life.”



    He learned that from his mother, Vicky Bolton. His parents moved to the U.S. from Nigeria and had four children. But they split up, and Nwagbuo's mother, a nurse, cared for the kids and demanded they do well in school and stay out of trouble. Nwagbuo had little contact with his father, who died a couple of years ago.


    “Growing up in Spring Valley, we didn't have the things everybody else had,” Nwagbuo said. “But my mom, she worked hard trying to give us everything we needed. I owe a lot to her. Stuff wasn't easy, but that's a good way to have it sometimes.


    When Nwagbuo decided to redshirt his second year at Southwestern, that's when he went to work for IKEA. “I just wanted to make some money, buy a car,” he said.



    He returned for his second year bigger and stronger, and it showed. Nwagbuo recorded 10 sacks for the Apaches in 2005 and was named to the All-Foothill Conference second team. That got the attention of numerous Division I schools, and Nwagbuo chose Michigan State. He became a Spartans starter midway through his first season there and kept that status through his senior year.



    Nwagbuo majored in interdisciplinary studies in social science and minored in economics. His mother was more proud of him for getting his degree than anything he accomplished on the football field.


    “That was big for her,” he said with a wide smile.


    The Giants signed Nwagbuo as a free agent after the 2008 draft, but he was cut at the end of training camp.


    “It didn't go the way I wanted, but it's worked out for the best,” Nwagbuo said.


    Now there's an intriguing, local-kid-makes-good story brewing. The “O.G.” fan club is currently small, but fervent. If it's learned anything from its subject, though, there is plenty of room to grow.
     
  2. LFEpooh124

    LFEpooh124 BoltTalker

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    Thanks for posting Johnny.

    I like Nwagbuo, hope he makes the team and can contribute.
     
  3. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

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    I like him as well - better than Scott, but Scott probably sticks.

    The acquisition of Travis Johnson makes Nwagbuo making the roster pretty suspect.
     
  4. wrbanwal

    wrbanwal Well-Known Member

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    can he learn Offensive tackle???

    :tup:
     
  5. Buck Melanoma

    Buck Melanoma Guest

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    Wouldn't that be nice ..... :icon_evil:
     
  6. AnteaterCharger

    AnteaterCharger Calibrating Bolttalk, Podcast by Podcast Staff Member Super Moderator Podcaster

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    He'll very likely make the team
     
  7. Retired Catholic

    Retired Catholic BoltTalker

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    I think so, too. Talented youth ought to displace a vet with declining performance. He was released by both Phillie and Carolina, if remember right. Nwagbuo obviously has ability and the kind of desire you can't coach.
     

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