In less than a week, a nation of recruitniks will tune their televisions to watch the U.S. Army All-American Game, pitting the best high school seniors in the East versus the top preps in the West in San Antonio, TX. But before the 2004 Class plays in their high school swan song on NBC, the nation's top underclassmen will quietly participate in the top national combine that will propel some to elite rankings and offer lists that you will read about all next year.
One junior who many pundits are expecting to explode at the U.S. Army All-American National Combine is defensive tackle Ekom Udofia from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, AZ. Udofia has been one of the top defensive terrors in the state of Arizona for the last couple years - regardless of class - and by the end of this week the nation will know his name.
"I don't think that people have ever seen a 290-pounder that is this athletic and strong, but solid too," the Chaparral standout opines. "I just want to go in there and dominate like I know I can, by God's grace."
Udofia has been looking to this combine all year as the launching pad for his college future, but it looked as if his training plans would be derailed when the 2003 season ended in late November. He sprained both his ankles in his final game (which he played through) and was on crutches until early December. Just as he got back on his own two feet, illness struck and kept him bedridden and weak. Udofia's weight dropped to 265, with just a few weeks left to train before his trip to Texas.
But in a remarkable turnaround, the dynamic DT has pushed his body to new levels. He has dropped his body fat from 14% to 12% while rapidly piling on the pounds. He just hit 286 and should round out at 290 by the time he flies to San Antonio this week. Working out six times a week in maniacal fashion, Udofia has been working every imaginable muscle in his upper body, lower body and his trunk - from the incline bench press to box squats to chin ups. He has also been on the track each day, working on his starts and running sprints and agility drills.
"And lots of stretching - I'm really flexible now," the 6'2" sculpted Scottsdale product adds. "With how flexible I've become, my stride has opened up a lot more. That's an important focus for me, even when I'm putting on all this weight."
Combines and camps like this put a premium on speed and explosiveness, which are hard to maintain when young bodies are trying to get bigger and stronger, but Udofia has found himself faster than ever with his intense December training. He just ran a 4.66 40 on Friday, which is simply ridiculous at his size.
"That felt really good," Udofia describes. "Everything seemed to be working perfect. That's the fastest I've ever run."
His speed, agility and strength will be put to the test Thursday when the underclass participants will be measured, weighed and run through a batch of tests. Friday will pit them against each other by position in one-on-one drills and skill competitions. The experience can be a dizzying one for a group of 16-year olds, as they mirror many of the tests and activities of the NFL combines, but Udofia is brimming with confidence heading into the event.
"I really believe with all my heart that I'm going to put up one of the best performances that the camp has ever seen," he proclaims.
You better believe that colleges are all over this monster DT even before the National Combine, as word has spread of his dominating junior season. Udofia has yet to put together film to send out to schools, but USC and Michigan have been pushing hard through his coach and via email. Stanford is the lone school to have extended a scholarship offer, which they made in 2002 as they scouted him as a sophomore while recruiting his older brother, Udeme, as a senior at Chaparral.
"I believe that when this combine is done and the Nike Camp is done," he notes. "And when schools have seen my junior film, it should show that I'm the top D-lineman in the country."
Four schools have held positions as Udofia's favorites for months now: Stanford, USC, Michigan and Ohio State. But a newcomer rounds out his top five.
"I'm starting to get up on Oklahoma," the super junior reveals. "They just seem to produce good D-linemen. But I should say that there's a bunch of other schools I'm interested in, too."
Udofia shakes off questions of a single leader, but he does have one comment that hints at a school to beat as colleges jump all over him in 2004.
"All I will say is that it would be awesome if me and my brother could play next to each other," he allows.
Udeme Udofia is currently in his first year as a defensive end at Stanford. The older Udofia took a redshirt year this fall to add much-needed size and strength to his frame. The freshman will hit the weights hard this winter with Stanford strength coach Ron Forbes, when both believe he can add a solid 25 pounds.
"People had better get ready, because Udeme is working hard and is getting ready to dominate," Ekom warns. "He's going to be starting for Stanford this next year."
The younger Udofia took an unofficial visit to Stanford in late November to see the Cardinal play at home against Notre Dame. While the outcome was beyond disappointing for Stanford, the junior recruit took away something from the game.
"I see opportunities to play and make a real difference," he notes. "I see where I could play side-by-side with my brother and help Stanford really turn things around."
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!