Broken but Unbowed

It's not the way <b>Ekom Udofia</b> expected things to go, but life has a funny way of throwing you a pitch high and tight just when everything's going right down the middle. Udofia had been named a U.S. Army All-American, and was getting set to play against Saguaro. It was October 15th...

"They had me going both ways," Ekom Udofia recalled to during his first day at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. "I'd play D-tackle, the nose, 3-technique, a little end. And when they needed me on offense, they would just put me wherever. The running backs coach always wanted to put me in at fullback during goal-line situations, but the head coach didn't want me to get hurt."

And then what wasn't supposed to happen to the 6-foot-2.5, 330-pound lineman from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral did. And it was accompanied by a loud CRACK.

"I was playing nose and I got triple-teamed," Udofia said. "My leg broke in four places, my ankle broke and all the ligaments in my ankle were torn.

"When I looked back at it, and it looked like it just collapsed in half, but I'm still standing up, but half my leg was dragging on the ground. I've sprained ankles before, but I knew this was more. When I got to the sideline I asked them what happened. I was devastated."

A surgery that required dissolvable screws, pins, a plate and a rod was performed on Ekom's shattered leg.

On January 11th, Udofia's cast was removed. But it didn't stop Ekom from getting some strange glances as he left Sky Harbor Airport on his way to San Antonio. "They do the wand thing (on my leg) and it beeps," Ekom said, laughing.

But his injury was no laughing matter. And it would be roughly a hockey season before Udofia would be running at full speed again. "When it first happened, they said 6 to 9 months, 9 months worst-case and that's what they were leaning toward," he said. "But now it's healing really fast and it's not as sore as it was, so I'm hoping for 6 months, three more months from now. That's when I hope to be full speed. You have to always prepare to compete, because if I don't I know for sure I won't be ready.

"All I was thinking was that after I was injured was how far could I push myself, how fast can I get back."

For now, Ekom will watch the All-American game on the sideline, wondering what could have been. "It was a great honor when I found out," he said of being named a U.S. Army All-American. "When they came to the school, that's when it really got big. I would have loved to play in it, but it's just great to be here, to get to meet all the players and have fun."

His thoughts will also be of three colleges and one choice that he'll make at some point during the game's NBC broadcast. Udofia has decided to announce his intentions to attend either USC, Stanford or Miami. Here's what Ekom had to say about each school:

USC - "They are the two-time national champions and they are losing Shaun Cody and Mike Patterson, so they need d-tackles. There's an opportunity to come in right off the bat."

Stanford - "My brother (Udeme) goes there and my sister went there, so that's a family thing. I like the area and I've probably known the coaches there the longest, ever since my sister went there. This year, five of the games they lost were by twenty points, so they were close to winning more games. So it would be nice to play with my brother, be somewhere where I'm comfortable at and also be a key piece to turning a program around."

Miami - "It's far away, but I get along with the players and coaches more than I expected to. Usually they want to tell the freshmen they want them to come in and compete, but they told me this year might be the best year in a while to come in and being able to compete for a spot right away."

With so much family history invested on 'The Farm', does Udofia feel some pressure to follow in his siblings' footsteps? "Definitely, without them even saying anything," he said. "But I also feel pressure from every other school too, because you hear things from every direction.

"It's a decision I made on my own. I'm a smart guy. I have a 4.2 GPA. Education is definitely important. If I can get a good education and also help turn around a team, it would be the best of both worlds."

But don't think the Cardinal are a shoe-in to get the next Udofia in line. They have some stiff competition. "I have all three hats with me right now," Ekom said. "I'm hopefully going to just have one hat. I don't want to have to be in a situation where I'm looking down at that bag, see three hats and everybody is waiting for me on national TV to make a choice. I want it so there's one hat and I can just pick it out and there's no pressure."

One decision he is sure of is his intent to dedide. "I have a little idea, but I keep going back and forth," said Udofia. "I just want to make sure I'm solid."

So when will Ekom know when to stop going back and forth? "That's a good question! Hopefully it'll just click, and I'll know," he said. "You can list it all out and you can be so careful about it, but when it comes down to it, it's just a feeling you get. And you've got to go with it."

And if this was the theater instead of football, I'd tell him to break a leg.

Ekom Udofia Scout Profile

The U.S. Army All-American Bowl is played in San Antonio, Texas., at the Alamodome on Jan. 15, 2005, and broadcast nationally on NBC at 1 p.m., Eastern. is a sponsor, the official selection partner and exclusive on-line partner of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, as well as the associated U.S. Army Combine for underclassmen.

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