Part II: Recruiting Of A Football All-American

Wide receiver Benjamin Obomanu discusses his transition from high school star to college freshman in part two of a two-part series.

Auburn, Ala.--Heading into the last four months of his senior year, Ben Obomanu had to make the decision that all high school valedictorians have to make-- where he was going to pursue his dreams of a college education. However, he was pursued much more aggressively by colleges than most valedictorians because of his ability to play football.

The wide receiver from Selma High School could literally pick almost any college in the country to attend this fall. Auburn coaches and fans are happy the Parade All-American decided to stay close to home and be an Auburn Tiger.

Obomanu is shown on the day of his press conference at the Selma High gym.

However, coming to that decision wasn't easy. Before Obomanu could go to his senior prom or put on his cap and gown, he had to decide which school to select from a long list of suitors. With all of the issues that could have influenced the judgement of a blue chip recruit like Obomanu, a good part of his decision came down to the simplest of factors. Like most high school seniors looking for a place to spend the next four years of their life Obomanu, was looking for an established connection to the place he would soon call home.

"I knew that at Auburn I knew a lot of the upperclassmen football players," he says. "I knew a lot of the freshmen coming in, I knew who I was going to be with. I knew Montavious Pitts, Courtney Taylor and Devin Aromashodu, especially the guys that play the same position that I do," Obomanu explains. "And that was really intriguing knowing that I could come up here like I am this summer and know people and won't be too far away from home and all those good things."

The wide receiver (in blue) is shown during a workout this summer in Mobile where he was practicing for the all-star game.

Obomanu says that Auburn having connections in Selma really helped set the Tigers' recruiting effort apart. "My recruiting coach was coach (Joe) Whitt and he has a lot of relatives in Selma and he used to go to the same church that I used to go to. So he knew my uncle and he knew some of my football coaches down there so knowing that he knew everybody like that on a personal basis was just different."

Obomanu also notes that when making his official recruiting visit to Auburn a star player was instrumental in helping him make a solid decision on where to play his college football. "My host was Carnell Williams and he really did a good job of laying down the ropes for me. He told me that he was in the same position that I was coming into his senior year of high school. He was one of the top players in the state and had a choice to go everywhere and everyone was wondering where he was going," Obomanu says.

"He really just made my visit. And, of course, we're supposed to have fun and he showed me a lot of things, but basically he just explained to me how on the visit that the coaches and schools are going to make everything seem perfect. They're going to try and make you have fun and make you see all of the outside stuff that will make you want to come to there school, but he told me that if Auburn was the place for me then I should come there. Then he said Auburn was the place for him and for some other players it wasn't the place for them, so don't let anybody pressure you."

After determining he would play his college football for Tommy Tuberville's Tigers, Obomanu decided he wanted to get an early start adjusting to college life and preparing for the 2002 season. After playing in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star football game, the three-sport star at Selma High moved to Auburn and began full-time training to be a college wide receiver where he has been doing conditioning drills and taking part in the voluntary workouts and throwing sessions with the other wide receivers and quarterbacks.

Obomanu says that he is really enjoying the college experience. "I like it, knowing that it is close to home. I know a lot of people here and I've got old classmates and old friends that go to school here now. Also, it is good just being able to relate to all the players in Auburn and all of them getting a chance to know me and I get a chance to meet them and get a feel for how things are going to be."

Tuberville says that Obomanu has a great chance to play this fall for the Tigers as do other members of what is shaping up as an impressive incoming signee class. Obomanu has been joined on campus this summer by fellow true freshman wide receivers Aromashodu, Pitts, Taylor, Lee Guess and Anthony Mix. With sub 4.5 speed in the 40, a six-foot-two frame and excellent hands, Tuberville says that he expects Obomanu to immediately be a contributor to the 2002 team.

Obomanu notes that he is definitely getting to know his new teammates over the summer. "Sometimes when you come in as a freshman you think they're going to bully you around and dog you out and all that kind of stuff and treat you bad," he says. "Of course, they do their share of breaking me in like they're supposed to, but they really do a good job of teaching me routes and everything, which really helps me learn and adjust to the college level."

The freshman wide receiver says that the attitude of the players is something that really excites him about his new team. "Everybody has a goal in mind. We all know that we had some difficulties at the end of the year last year and we know that we have a new offensive and defensive coordinator and everybody really has that focus to be successful this upcoming season."

Obomanu makes a tackle during a Selma High game. He will play just offense at Auburn.

Like many of the freshmen who arrived early, Obomanu is doing more than just working out. "I'm taking one class," he notes. "I was taking two, but if I would have kept my second class I wouldn't have been able to get out in the afternoons for the passing drills. So I dropped one so I could come out and do this." As would be expected, Obomanu notes that his first class is going well. "I'm handling it just fine. I took some college courses back home at the community college so I know what the college atmosphere is like and it's not too different."

Obomanu has been told by the coaches they expect him to play this year and that is always exciting for a freshman to hear. When asked what goals he has for the 2002 season, he says, "Basically just to be a team player and to know my role that I'm supposed to play. I want to play as a freshman, I want to be able to do some things--score a touchdown, catch passes, but most of all I want to win games. I would like to be a part of a winning team and be a team player.

"Also, I would like to step up and take on the role of a leader," Obomanu explains. "I know with me being a freshman and everything I can still be a leader for other freshmen and other guys on the team by showing that I have got heart, going out there and diving for balls and doing all that kind of stuff."

Obomanu is shown during a workout this summer at the football complex.

New offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino says that he wasn't very impressed with what he saw from the receivers in spring drills. He says that Obomanu will be given plenty of chances to dive for footballs, show his heart and be a leader. "I have been impressed with his maturity and his work ethic," Petrino says. "He has the size, speed and athletic ability that we are looking for at wide receiver in our offense. I am looking forward to seeing what he can do this year."

Petrino isn't the only one excited about seeing what the former Selma High star will do during what could be an interesting season for the talented Obomanu, who is at the right place at the right time to make an impact as true freshman.

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