Inside the Class of '04: Chris Ogbonnaya

The seventh in a series of interviews and photo essays on members of the Longhorn Class of '04: Signee Chris Ogbonnaya.

Chris Ogbonnaya
Wide Receiver
Houston Strake Jesuit HS
NR: 36 SR: 30 Rating: ***

An Inside Texas conversation with Houston Strake Jesuit head coach Ron Counter on Chris Ogbonnaya:

IT: What are Chris's strengths as a football player?

Counter: He's got great hands. To be a great receiver, you've got to have great hands and he's got big hands. I knew he was going to be real special when he was a freshman playing basketball, there was a loose ball and he went to hand the ball to the official, and when he went to hand the ball to the official, he palmed it -- just went like this [holds his palm out] and gave the ball to the official and when he did that, I looked at him, and I'm thinking, he did that like a normal person would grab a tennis ball. He did it without even looking. And I thought, that kid's a freshman? After the game, I said let me see your hands, and sure enough his fingers and his hands were really big and he goes and gets the ball. That's his thing.

IT: What did the Texas coaches tell you that they like about Chris?

Counter: If the ball is up in the air, he's going to go get it. He made some big catches, some highlight catches that have been special and the second thing is, once he catches the ball, on short passes he can make people miss. He's got that special ability -- sometimes he made good players look bad even if they were in position to make the tackle, sometimes they didn't get their hands on him, so even if you were playing two-hand touch, they may not touch him let alone tackle him and bring him down. And I guess the third thing is he's strong. The first guy's not going to bring him down normally. He's going to break tackles and get some extra yards after contact, so he's almost like a running back playing wide receiver. He's played quarterback, he actually played running back here some as a freshman. He could have played any position. He's that type of athlete where he can play receiver, defensive back, and in high school, quarterback, running back, wherever he's needed.

IT: Where all did he play for you during his career?

Counter: As a sophomore, he started both ways at cornerback and part time wide receiver and then as a junior he played both ways. This year I was only going to play him at quarterback and he ended up playing a little defense also.

He was a fantastic punt returner and kick-off returner. As a junior, I think he had 450 yards in kick-off return yards. He didn't have that many this year because people didn't kick to him. As a junior, I remember it was nine or 10 yards per touch every time he touched the ball. Poor coaching didn't get him the ball enough, should have just given him the ball. That was our idea last year: we put him at quarterback so he could just have the ball every play. He played the first two games at quarterback and got hurt -- had a bad ankle sprain so he missed the next two games and while he was out, a sophomore quarterback came in and played so well that when Chris came back, we moved him back to receiver where he really wanted to play anyway. We won the rest of our games and Chris got to play where he wanted to play.

IT: Do you think Chris could end up playing a position aside from receiver at Texas?

Counter: I think he'll just play wide receiver. Could he play defense in college. My answer is he could, but why would you do that? I think when you've got somebody special catching the ball, there's no reason to put him on defense. I definitely think he'll play receiver, and he's going to be a good one.

IT: What are the areas of his game that Chris needs to improve upon to be successful at the next level?

Counter: He had over 30 offers... there's really not anything not to like about him. If there's anything, he probably needs to work on his speed a little bit. He doesn't have tremendous breakaway speed, track speed so to speak, but he has that ability to make people miss and he doesn't get caught from behind too often. And he'll definitely need some individual work on route-running. We don't throw the ball that much. If we'd have had a quarterback that was a little bit more of a thrower as a senior this year, he probably would not have played quarterback this year. Playing quarterback and playing these other positions probably hurt him a little bit in one way because he hasn't been concentrating on receiver and route-running and those type of things... I think after a few weeks of getting some individual coaching and learning the system and learning the routes and plays, once he catches on I think everything is going to go smooth.

IT: Is there a defining moment for you that exemplifies Chris's ability as a football player?

Counter: His sophomore year, we were backed up on our own one or two yardline, we threw it up to him down the sideline and he caught it, there was two defenders, he outjumped both of them, came down and made one of them miss, took off down the sideline and all of a sudden it's a 98-yard touchdown. And I remember at the time saying to some of the coaches on the sideline, 'He just got his Division I scholarship' because it was one of those 'Wow' plays. He just went up and got over two guys, made one of them miss, and the next thing you know, instead of having the ball at our own two yardline, we're in the endzone.

There was another play his sophomore year, he was playing defense and he intercepted a pass, and on the return, he made five guys miss. At one time, there were three guys and he went through all of them. It was almost like it was magic because nobody touched him. It was like, how did those guys all miss him. He made those highlight plays as a sophomore so you knew he was going to be big-time.

IT: Anything that we didn't cover that you'd like to add?

Counter: Chris is one of those kids that has charisma. Everyone likes to be around him. He's got a great personality... He's got a great rapport with the kids. Just a great, great kid. The type of kid that you would want your son to be and everybody gets along well with him. He's very friendly and outgoing and just a lot of charisma. You don't get better than these guys (Ogbonnaya and redshirt freshman Steve Hogan, also from Strake Jesuit). They're great students, great athletes, great kids, great people, so UT's got another good one. I'm going to be coming to a lot of games...

Note from Clendon: Counter said that, despite the fact that he is an Oklahoma grad (he was a walk-on for the Sooners back in the Brian Bosworth days), he'll be rooting for the Horns because of the Burnt Orange presence of Ogbonnaya and Hogan... We originally told you about Ogbonnaya a couple of days after Signing Day last year with the following Feb. 6, 2003 Inside Scoop segment: Houston Strake Jesuit coach Ron Counter said he has a "can't miss bluechip" prospect to follow UT signee Steven Hogan in ATH Chris Ogbonnaya (the g is silent). Ogbonnaya played WR and CB as a sophomore and junior but will play QB next year while still playing on defense. "He's pretty special," Counter said. "He's the real deal and a great kid with good grades." Counter said Ogbonnaya projects as a wide receiver at the next level. "He has big hands, catches everything and makes yards after the catch," his coach said. Ogbonnaya had 450 yards in kickoff returns and 50 catches (averaging over 20 yards per catch) in two years on varsity.

*Posed shots by Will Gallagher/Inside Texas. Game photo by Tony Muniz*

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