"I'd seen him on a cover of a magazine, and I was thinking that's pretty cool where he is at," Owamagbe Odighizuwa explained. "I had my own goals to be where he was at, and maybe even higher."
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound Odighizuwa can consider himself there.
One of the best defensive end prospects in the nation, the Portland area star has racked up scholarship offers from Florida, Tennessee, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, and most recently, Notre Dame.
This past Friday, Odighizuwa found himself on the phone with Irish head coach, Charlie Weis.
"He was funny," Odighizuwa said. "He was humerous. He made me laugh, and that's what I liked about him. That he was a funny guy.
"He was just talking about Ethan Johnson and how he got to be 285. I asked him how he got him big so fast, and down there he said they eat like pigs. It was just funny."
There is nothing funny about Odighizuwa's game. This past season, he had 96 tackles with 22 of those coming for loss including 18 sacks.
"Coach Weis was just saying they watched film of me, and they're really impressed with the way I played, and they wanted to make an official scholarship offer, and they're going to write it on paper and send it out to me in a couple days."
It's been quite a past couple of months for Odighizuwa, as programs like California are also close to offering. But Odighizuwa wasn't always receiving this kind of recruiting attention from the likes of Urban Meyer, Jim Harbaugh and Weis.
Prior to the U.S. Army National Combine in San Antonio on Jan. 2nd, a showcase for some of the country's top juniors, the only two programs that had stepped to the table for Odighizuwa's services were the in-state programs, Oregon and Oregon State. Following a dominant performance in one-on-one drills that earned him Scout.com first-team all-combine honors, Odighizuwa has seen his stock soar.
"I knew I was capable of doing well," Odighizuwa said of the pass-rushing drills.
"That was the one thing I was looking forward to doing at the whole combine. I didn't care about the 40-yard dash, the vertical jump or anything. All I just wanted to do was the pass rush drills because that's what I'm really good at. The whole time I was thinking pass rush, pass rush, pass rush, and being able to compete against the o-linemen there."
Not bad for a kid, that wasn't allowed to play football by his mother until eighth grade. Until then, Odighizuwa played basketball and ran track.
"Football just came naturally to me," he said.
Now, Odighizuwa is starting to put on muscle. He has gained 15 pounds in the last year, and sees himself getting maybe as big as Johnson, once he becomes a college player himself.
Notre Dame was actually one of the first program's to notice Odighizuwa, sending him a package following his sophomore season.
"I think they were the first school to send me a big envelope to come to their football camp," he said. "I was excited about that because it was the first big thing I got in the mail, and they had a little bit about their history on their registration thing. Everyone says it's a big-time school. I wasn't someone that knew a lot about college football. I didn't know the details about schools, and everyone was saying Notre Dame is a big-time school, and that really got me excited too."
So did his Friday talk with Weis.
"The conversation I had with him on the phone, I kind of want to know who he is and what they're about. He seems like a great guy I'd want to play football for."
Odighizuwa doesn't think he'll know where he wants to play football until after his senior football season. He has been to the campuses at Oregon and Oregon State multiple times, and will visit Stanford at the end of February. Places like Notre Dame, Florida and Tennessee will have to likely wait until Odighizuwa can start taking his official visits.
"I could see myself going anywhere, as long as it's a good school, good program, with good coaches that I like," Odighizuwa explained. He has a 3.4 GPA and wants to major in sports business or business management. "If it's right for me and my family, I could see myself going far away from school, and my Mom and my brothers plan to move wherever I go, so that will be nice."