Perhaps the only thing bigger than high school football in small-town Ohio is Ohio State football, and alums Kirk Herbstreit, AJ Hawk, Mike Nugent et al stand living testament to the fact that the Buckeyes don't suffer for popularity in Centerville.
"Yeah, you could say that every person who's been offered by Ohio State has gone there," Odenigbo said. "Centerville football is known for D-I athletes, we have maybe five this year, and already three kids have offers. We have about 2,700 people total, and the school is excellent. We're always rated in the top-25 in the state [academically].
"But being from Ohio and going to school with Ohio State everywhere does play a factor, but it's not a main factor," added Odenigbo, who was born in New Jersey and lived in Decatur, Illinois before coming to Ohio. "I wasn't born in Ohio, and the first thing they gave me when I was born was not a football or Ohio State stuff. I've never really had a favorite team in fact. I started football my sophomore year and didn't watch until I started playing the sport."
But hang on Sloopy, for several factors may help ensure Odenigbo's college jersey is cardinal red and not scarlet. First, Yahoo.com's recent story on Coach Jim Tressel's knowledge of players receiving improper benefits may well cause Ohio State recruits, Odenigbo included, to think twice, especially if the pending NCAA investigation drags on or turns out badly for the Buckeyes. For Stanford, the Cardinal need look no further for inspiration than a 2011 recruit, fellow four-star linebacker James Vaughters, who picked Stanford over Ohio State and several Southern schools.
Odenigbo is also looking closely at another footballer who chose to bypass the glamour of a bigger football stage to stay with Stanford. It seemed to work out okay for the player, as while Andrew Luck won't be signing with an NFL team come April, he has another year to spend in college with his friends and sister, can finish his architecture degree and, if the clamoring class is any judge, possibly win the Heisman Trophy.
Finally, Odenigbo's parents figure to significantly help Stanford's chances, as the Stanford offer was all they needed to hear. In no uncertain terms, Odenigbo understood he would be visiting Stanford.
"Of course," Odenigbo said of a potential visit to the Farm. "I'm going to Stanford in the summer. My parents have confirmed, ‘You're going, probably for one of the Junior Days, likely with mom and dad.' They said they were going to Stanford no matter what. That was one of the biggest concerns for them."
While Odenigbo immediately knew Stanford would be on the agenda, what he didn't realize, at least not right away, is that his mom could be a big help if and when he started his freshman year on the Farm.
"I have an uncle on my mom's side who lives 30 minutes away, and there are two Nigerians on the women's basketball team, and my mom is close friends with them. I remember them from middle school. We Nigerians all stay connected in some way. They're Igbo, and one is premed and has a 3-something GPA. I never knew how good they were though, until I saw them on ESPN.
"They went to (high school near) Andrew Luck, and they know him from there. They knew a couple of Nigerians on the football team, and they're going to introduce me when I go down there."
Nneka Ogwumike is a former Pac-10 Player of the Year and All-American. As a junior this year, she has been a rock for the No. 2 women's basketball squad, averaging 15.8 points per game and shooting 57 percent from the field during the regular season, both Pac-10 bests. Chiney Ogwumike was just named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, as her 7.6 rebounds, 56.7 percent shooting and 0.8 blocks per game are all bests for a Pac-10 freshman.
Like Odenigbo, Chiney and Nneka are both Igbo, one of three major Nigerian ethnic groups, along with Hausa and Yoruba. 2012 Calif. DT recruit Aziz Shittu, a seeming Stanford lean, is Yoruba, and he and Odenigbo have talked about their backgrounds and the possibility of playing at Stanford together.
Odenigbo also knows of two Ohio footballers Stanford is recruiting for his class, linebacker Joe Bolden from Colerain and safety Bam Bradley from Trotwood, so add in the Ogwumikes and the Nigerians on the football team, No. 1 wide receiver Chris Owusu among them, and Odenigbo won't lack for immediate friends on the Farm.
"It was right when my season was over," Odenigbo said of his first contact with Stanford. "Coach Polian recruits my area, so he was the first person to receive my phone number – my high school coach gave it to him. Two or three weeks later, he responded later that when Coach Harbaugh was around, the whole staff saw and loved my film. The day after the Orange Bowl, they sent me a letter, so I called them, and the next day they flew into my school and Coach Polian told my coach that they offered me. I was really pumped and excited, and so was my whole family.
As Odenigbo hinted at in Part I of The Bootleg's feature, academics are a major consideration for any Stanford football recruit, and for Odenigbo, next on his plate is the ACT.
"The ACT, I'm taking April 9, and I've been getting ready," he said. "Stanford tells me to take it as many times as I want. I'm nervous because I've never taken it before. I'm shooting for a 25, 26. The only problem is grammar. I'm just terrible with grammar. Math and science I'm not bad, but I struggle with grammar and semicolons; I see a semicolon and I'm just so confused. [Ed: ironic syntax there, Ifeadi.] But I've been coming in early in the morning to see my teachers."
The ACT will be important for Odenigbo, as of his 20-plus offers, he identifies Stanford as one of his four leaders, though he stresses those leaders are tentative.
"Northwestern, Stanford, Ohio State and Notre Dame," Odenigbo says of his favorites. "But other schools could play a factor. Those are schools I've heard a lot from and am interested in. But I plan on visiting Michigan, Michigan State, Illinois, schools in that area. It could change once I see them and meet their staffs.
Odenigbo has been to two of those four schools. He's spoken plenty about Ohio State, but what about the schools he's seen?
I've been to Ohio State and Notre Dame," he said. "Notre Dame went pretty well. It was beautiful and I myself am Catholic."
Fair enough, and if Odenigbo's recruitment were a horse race, the Irish may be in a great position to show. This reporter cannot shake the feeling though that this recruitment is coming down to Ohio State and Stanford, and Odenigbo's final thought shows those two schools are forefront in his mind as well.
"Coming from my parents' point of view, they were born and raised in Nigeria and came here because they were smart and successful," he said. "Education came first. My mom's a pediatrician and my dad's a civil engineer. They've always preached education, education, education. A ton of people think this is scripted for me, but at end of day, it really is education.
"A school like Ohio State, I'm there for four or five years and if don't make the NFL, I have degree and they will see, ‘Oh, you came from a good school.' But if I go to Stanford, they'll see that and ‘Oh, we have a smart person.' Your education and what college you go to can dictate the rest of your life. You don't play football forever. We'll see where it goes because I am from Ohio and playing for Ohio State is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but then again, going to Stanford is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
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