Michael Onyemaobi sat in the University Club atop the rim of California Memorial Stadium and looked down on general commencement. He saw former Cal football players sitting on the same field, in the same place, where they'd played for four or five years, and where generations past had listened to John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. It hit him: This place was perfect.
"Everybody has spoken in that stadium," Onyemaobi said. "That's insane."
The Temecula (Calif.) Chaparral three-star athlete has a 3.0 GPA -- far higher from his admittedly sub-par freshman year -- but seeing graduation, seeing that he, too, could be one of those players wearing the 'Student Athlete' stole, hit home.
"You hear a lot about Berkley, and people talk about it like it's a bunch of stuck-up nerds that don't really do anything," Onyemaobi said. "I got on campus, saw the football players, and these are players just like me, who have the ability to go in there and be competitive in the classroom and be able to get that kind of education, as well as be able to play football in the Pac-12."
http://www.scout.com/college/california/story/1669876-onyemaobi-commits-...Onyemaobi is not paying lip service to education. Both of his parents -- who emigrated from Nigerian when they were both in their teens -- are proud owners of PhD's, and his father is a college professor, teaching theology. Education, Onyemaobi said, is "humongous."
"They're in love with it; Mom and Dad, they're absolutely in love with it," Onyemaobi said. "They love the environment, they think that it fits me, and they love the coaching staff. We were in the football facility, and we all felt like we had just walked into our own family. It felt like it was home."
Onyemaobi wants to major in criminal justice, thereby giving new meaning to the term "lockdown corner."
"I love it. Growing up, all I would ever do is watch [Law and Order] SVU, NCIS, that's just what I love to watch -- Criminal Minds, COPS, all of it," Onyemaobi said. "I love it. That's what I want to do, especially on the federal level, working for the FBI, the DEA, that's just something I really want to do."
Taking Government is on the docket for his senior year, but until then, he's taking care of all of his core classes, checking off the graduation and NCAA requirement boxes.
"Next year, I'm going to be able to start venturing off into that," Onyemaobi said.
When he ventured to Berkeley this weekend, bringing both of his parents with him, he knew a bit of what to expect, thanks to his relationship with Ground Zero seven-on-seven teammate Camryn Bynum.
"Camryn, he's in love with it, and me and him have been talking quite a bit about Cal," Onyemaobi said. "I started asking questions when I started getting interested in the program, and he's been pretty on me, letting me know that this is where it's at."
After arriving in the Bay Area on Friday, even before he began the real nuts-and-bolts portion of his unofficial visit on Friday, Onyemaobi ran into another cornerback, also of Nigerian descent -- Chibuzo Nwokocha.
"It was crazy -- we bumped into him before our visit even started, Friday afternoon, when we got Chipotle," Onyemaobi laughed. "We were just talking. We sat there, and we were happy that we're both Nigerian, and we just had a great conversation about school, everything. I talked to him before I even talked to coach [Sonny] Dykes, in person. He gave me great insight. I already had high expectations going in, and being on campus, actually physically, and meeting with the coaches, blew the roof off."
The Onyemaobi clan then spent Friday night in downtown San Francisco, and came back for another day on campus on Saturday.
The decision that Onyemaobi made on Saturday was one he'd contemplated making on December 23, but he always left room for happy accidents.
"There were a lot of things that went into it. That date wasn't set in stone," Onyemaobi said. "If something came before that, I was going to make my decision. It was time to make my decision. I came obviously on my unofficial, really loved the environment, loved everything I saw, love what they have to offer me athletically and academically, love the coaching staff, and just the people -- it was great -- so I decided to make my decision today."
Cal was the first school to offer Onyemaobi, and he never forgot it.
"They were the first school that ever believed in me, and pulled the trigger on me. I've got such a great relationship with that coaching staff," he said.
Such a good relationship, in fact, that, even though his heart has always been on offense, his head told him that he had a higher ceiling on defense. Plus, he knows that the Bears staff knows best.
"One thing I'm going to say: All these Pac-12, Big 10, ACC, all these college football coaches get paid millions of dollars to do on thing, and that's pull the best out of every single player to make their program better, and they find out what's necessary, and they know exactly what they want to do," Onyemaobi said. "What they love is what I can do with the ball in my hands, but they've also made it very clear that what I can do with my length and my size at corner is something that they love to see, and they would love to see my size match up with the best receivers in the Pac-12."
As for having the ball in his hands, he'll definitely be used in the return game, where he's quite a playmaker.
"I believe the return game is what they were talking about when they said having the ball in my hands," he said.
And, in a year and a half, he'll be on that field, making things happen, right where Dr. King and Kennedy spoke, where he saw former Bears take their degrees on Saturday.