Aniebonam's Journey Ends in Terps Commitment

Maryland landed the highest rated recruit in the 2014 class, Our Lady of Good Counsel (Olney, Md.) four-star defensive end Jesse Aniebonam. His football journey and his commitment to the Terps was a long time in the making. Aniebonam goes in-depth with FoxSportsNEXT, here...

Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley gave Jesse Aniebonam some of the soundest advice he had received during his recruiting process last June. During an overnight visit in College Park, the 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end/outside linebacker met one-on-one with his recruiter, who advised him to make a list of the key criteria he was hoping to find in a particular school. With a plan in mind, Anieboniam retreated to his basement to form his list, leaving a blank spot at the end for his final decision.

School-by-school, Aniebonam evaluated exactly what each program had to offer and what he could offer in return. Throughout the process, Aniebonam continued to reference his list until he finally narrowed it down to a select few.

Then, on Aug. 20, Aniebonam finally felt comfortable filling in that empty space.

"I actually just drew it in an hour ago," Anieboniam said Monday night. "It says: the University of Maryland."

Maryland had been in the forefront of Anieboniam's mind since they offered him the summer after his sophomore year. After all, the Terps were one of the first to extend a scholarship, his sister attended the school, and he was more then familiar with the stadium and campus. All the while, Locksley was there to offer his support and advice whenever the Good Counsel end sought him out.

"Coach Locksley has mentored me throughout this whole process. You can't put a value on everything he has taught me. I go to my dad for everything, but Locksley, he is right up there," Aniebonam said. "It is such an honor and privilege to me, and such a blessing that I am able to have such a good relationship with him. That is what really put me over the edge about committing to Maryland."

Despite the fact that Aniebonam's father was often traveling for his job, he still made himself available. Meanwhile, his mother was a constant presence whom he could rely on and trust. Aniebonam spoke to them both extensively the night leading up to his commitment, providing them, and in turn himself, with a convincing argument to choose his hometown team.

"I don't know exactly when I got that feeling or I really decided that I really wanted to go to Maryland, because it was kind of in the back of my head all along," Aniebonam said. "Talking to my parents about Maryland, and why I loved it so much, made me realize that if I am able to talk this well of a school, that is exactly where I want to be. So that definitely made it a lot easier for me.

"My mom wasn't really as involved as much on the day-to-day recruiting stuff because she doesn't really understand it as much, but [Monday] night I was talking to her like I would my coach. It was really special to her that I was involving her like that and telling her everything I wanted to do."

It's hard to imagine Anieboniam's mother anticipating her son reaching this point, especially considering he only played his first down of football three years prior.

Growing up, Aniebonam lived in a number of different states, but sports were always a constant in his life. Although Aniebonam played soccer, basketball and baseball, he never tried his hand at the gridiron game. That all changed when Aniebonam and his family moved to Maryland. They moved into the same neighborhood as former Good Counsel standout Rohan Williamson, who is now a senior at Georgetown. Williamson's father convinced Aniebonam to give football a try, and told him about Good Counsel coach Bob Milloy and the budding Falcons program. Aniebonam heeded the advice and enrolled at Our Lady of Good Counsel for his freshman year.

"I remember my first real introduction to football was when I met Coach [Kevin] McFadden and Coach Bob Milloy. Coach Mac looked at me and said, ‘I need to call this [college] coach, I just found him a new defensive end,'" Aniebonam said. "I had never played defensive end in my life, and I never even knew how to play it, but he looked at me and just saw a defensive end.

"He told me to go into the gym, and he asked me to grab the rim of the basketball hoop to see how high I could jump. So I did and he said, 'Yup, yup that's it.' And that is how things started, and it just grew from there."

While Aniebonam had never played defensive end, he grew up watching his cousin play… who just so happened to be two-time Pro Bowl NFL defensive end Osi Umenyiora. Aniebonam trained with his cousin heading into his freshman year, giving him an idea about what it takes to bean elite pass rusher.

"After that [his freshman year and training with Unenyiora] I went straight up to varsity that summer. That is when I really started realizing I could turn into something great and I could improve myself," said Aniebonam, who is No. 41 in the east region Top 150 rankings. "That was a really big jump from where I came from, but I just worked hard everyday and I am still working hard."

Aniebonam fought his way into the defensive rotation his sophomore year -- often only getting playing time late in games-- but he learned from the limited time he did see on the field. He ascended into a starting role his junior year, establishing himself as one of the region's elite, young pass rushers.

With a rapid-fire first step, violent hands and the ability to shoot past offensive linemen, Aniebonam began attracting significant attention on the recruiting trail. Alabama. Ohio State. Florida. South Carolina. Notre Dame. They all came calling, realizing his upside potential. While he entertained the big-name programs, Aniebonam always kept the hometown school in mind.

"Each and every time I went down to the school, visited the coaches or the players I would get more and more comfortable when I stepped on campus," Aniebonam said. "The more comfortable I got, the more inclined I was to open up and talk to the coaches about everything. I already heave such a strong bond with a lot of the players, and that is such a huge thing to me."

Of course, there were plenty of other reasons Aniebonam was attracted to UMD. The fact that his mother and sister could see him play were major factors, as well as Maryland's kinesiology program, a subject he wants to pursue in college. But it was head coach Randy Edsall who truly gave him an idea of what the Terps had to offer, and Aniebonam valued his words during the two years Maryland pursued him. The two had several private one-on-one talks in which UMD's headman became a confidant for Aniebonam and gave him plenty of advice, which the Good Counsel end respected.

"You know through the process and everything I have been able to realize how good of a man he really is going down there [to Maryland] and being around [Edsall] more was really important for me," said Aniebonam, who picked the Terps over Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, and Notre Dame. "Coach Edsall has always been there for me anytime I needed to talk to him… he always made time. I look at him as someone I can really trust too. I know he is the right man for the job to get me where I need to be with both football and with life."

All that was left was for Aniebonam to pull the trigger. He actually had his mind made up several weeks before

"I can't even explain it. It is just a really great feeling to finally make up my mind and pick the Terps," Aniebonam said. "I feel like I have a lot to bring into Maryland, and I feel like they have a lo to offer me as well and [my mother] knows that I am going into this with good intentions with whole heartedly knowing exactly what I want to do and what I want to accomplish."

Now that Aniebonam knows he is headed to College Park, the next step is figuring out exactly where he will fit into Maryland's scheme.

"I know they want me in kind of that outside linebacker hybrid defensive end. Mostly dropping down in the 5-technique at times and dropping back in coverage at times. That type of hybrid outside linebacker is what they are mainly looking at me for," said Aniebonam, who finished with 46 tackles, including 3 ½ sacks, last year. "I want to be someone that is going to stand out and have a heavy impact on the program and show that I have a lot to offer. I know I have a lot to learn as well and that they have a lot to teach me.

"I always have to leave room for improvement everywhere but definitely going into Maryland and having the college coaching experience. I know I am going to learn a lot more and there is a lot I will have to adapt and assimilate too. I have a lot that will be introduced to me on the collegiate level, and that is something that will really enhance my knowledge of the game so that is something I really cant wait for."

Now that Aniebonam is on board, he hopes to rope in some of the other top prospects in the area.

"Hopefully we can get a lot more talents down at Maryland. Guys like Damian Prince and Jalen Tabor," Aniebonam said. "I was with actually with Damian last weekend, and I kind of let him in on my decision, so hopefully now that they know that I am going [to Maryland], they will also be inclined to kind of follow along and go to Maryland as well."

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