Old Coug Nwachukwu is just getting warmed up

CHIMA NWACHUKWU never played a down of pro football after leaving Washington State, but he might prove to be one of the most notable former athletes to ever come out of WSU. The guy with the last name most people struggled to pronounce, the guy former WSU assistant coach Chris Ball once said he wouldn't be surprised to see become a future president, is making tracks at the ripe old age of 25.

He already has a master's degree in political science from Texas, and this fall he'll be heading to Stanford Law School. He was accepted last week, and subsequently turned down Yale and Harvard.

WSU fans may recall that Nwachukwu (pronounced WATCH-uh-koo) earned the final credits for his WSU bachelor's degree in political science by taking classes at Georgetown in 2011 while interning for U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York.

"It was a good experience," Nwachukwu said during a telephone interview this week from Houston, where he's interning in a law firm. "I got to talk to a lot of the people who were in the positions that I might want to be in one day.

"They gave me a lot of advice. Not only concerning where they are now, but about their (career) route and law school."

Nwachukwu hopes to become a federal trial attorney. As for politics and Coach Ball's musings about the White House, he says, "Politics? Probably not. Maybe when I'm older."

A two-time, second-team Academic All-American and three-time Pac-10 All-Academic pick, Nwachukwu started at cornerback or safety most of his four years (2007-10) at WSU. He collected more than 200 career tackles, but suffered through some of the most painful and lopsided losses in school history during his final three seasons.

"I wouldn't trade it for the world," Nwachukwu insists. "The friendships I developed at WSU are long-lasting, particularly because we went through such hell, honestly.

"That part of it is hard. Very, very hard. But because of it, it was probably the most amazing experience of my life."

Nwachukwu said Ball helped him develop as a player and a man. Not necessarily in that order.

"Sometimes Coach Ball would pull me out (of a game)," Nwachukwu recalled. "We were losing by huge margins, and he would see I was not giving my full effort, and he would bitch me out.

"I wouldn't understand, because we were losing by huge margins. But it taught me about values that adhere to yourself, that mean something regardless of the context that you're in."

Nwachukwu started all 12 games as a Freshman All-American in 2007, but he says that season convinced him his future was in law, not in pro football.

"Everyone wants to go to the NFL," Nwachukwu said. "I just had to think soberly, ‘What are my chances? What am I best at, and what do I want to do?'

"At that point, I had to focus on academics. I always knew I wanted to be an attorney. Even if I played in the NFL, I wanted to do that (become an attorney) afterwards."

Nwachukwu laughs when noting that being a Cougar in Texas can be interesting. WSU football coach Mike Leach gained fame as the colorful coach of Texas Tech.

"Everybody I meet, I tell them I went to Washington State: ‘Oh yeah. Leach,'" Nwachukwu said.

"I figured he was putting us on the map with that bowl game that we had with Colorado State (the New Mexico Bowl last December). It's too bad we lost that one, but he'll be able to turn it around. He's definitely a character."

At 25, Nwachukwu has spent almost half his life living without his father, who died of leukemia when Chima was 13. The elder Nwachukwu left his native Nigeria to attend college in the United States. He earned degrees at Marquette and Princeton and briefly worked as a college professor before embarking on a successful business career.

"I wanted to be like my father," Chima said. "He was an intelligent guy."

Intelligent, and successful.

Like father, like son.

AS A SOPHOMORE, NWACHUKWU POSTED SIX TACKLES IN THE COUGARS' DRAMATIC, DOUBLE-OVERTIME VICTORY OVER WASHINGTON IN THE 2008 APPLE CUP.


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