Going to Paradise

On Saturday, January 25, 2003 in front of a national television audience on Fox Sports Net, players from colleges in the Midwest and in the West will take to the football field in Hansen Stadium at Dixie College in St. George, Utah. The Midwest All-Stars will be made up of players from the Mid-American, Big Ten and C-USA conferences, including Western Michigan's Mobolaji Afariogun and Jermaine Lewis.

Players on the West All-Stars team will be comprised of players from the PAC-10, Western Athletic and Mountain West conference. The Big 12 Conference will have players on both teams. The players on both squads will be playing their final collegiate football game in the 2nd annual Paradise Bowl.

Jermaine Lewis is looking forward to playing in the Paradise Bowl and feels the selection is a great honor, "It's a great honor for me and Mo to get invited to it." He said. "We had to work hard all season long to try to get into a post season game. We couldn't get to a bowl game or anything, but that's a great opportunity for us to showcase our talents to the rest of the conferences across the nation."

By being selected to the Paradise Bowl, both Lewis and Mobolaji Afariogun will for the first time play on the same team with guys they faced throughout the 2002 football season. Lewis feels that even after playing in some many close losses this season that there are still people who look down on the Broncos and the Mid-American Conference, and he may be right. "It's a great honor, a great challenge for us to show how we measure up," Lewis said. "The MAC really doesn't get any respect, so it's going to be a great honor to show the bigger conferences what we have.

For three seasons Lewis was a safety on Western Michigan's defense. It was the defensive side of the ball where he made his mark. However, before the season started Lewis was moved back to the position he was recruited for, wide receiver. Lewis has caught 35 passes for a team high of 613 yards and 4 touchdowns on the season.

For Mobolaji Afariogun, his path has been a little different. The Renaissance High School graduate from Detroit was playing basketball when Head Coach Gary Darnell recruited him. "He was coming to see a guy that he seen that actually goes to Central now and plays for Central," Afariogun said. "He came and saw me at a basketball game and he told me that I could have a long career playing football and by just trying to focus on football. I sort of did at basketball, it kind of made me good at football because of the footwork it takes to play basketball and I kind of use those skills in football and been pretty good at it."

Afariogun's career at WMU has been an up and down one with his 2000 season being the best one form him. In 2000 Afariogun was name to the MAC All-First Team. He led all WMU tight ends with 32 catches and 365 receiving yards. Two of his more memorable catches came during the 2000 season. The first was against the then #4 ranked Wisconsin Badgers when he hauled in the Broncos only touchdown of the game in a 19-7 loss. The second came against Marshall in the MAC Championship game, a 34-yard reception.

In 2001, Afariogun was hampered by a hand injury sustained before the first game of the season against Illinois State. The injury seemed to throw his timing off as the season went on. When asked whether or not the injury was still effecting him this season, Afariogun said, ""No, I felt pretty good this season. All season long I've been feeling pretty good about my timing and everything. I'm just feeling pretty healthy and everything's going pretty good so far for me personally."

Playing in an All-Star game like this one is a first for Afariogun who is looking forward to playing along side the guys he played against this season. "I've never done anything like this, like never played in an All-Star game for football before. This is my first. It's going to be pretty exciting. Some of the guys I was talking trash competing against and are all going to be on the same team and it's going to be an all new experience for me really."

So what does it mean to him and to Western Michigan to be selected to participate in the 2nd Annual Paradise Bowl? "It helps both. For the program I guess other people can look at this and they can say okay, well they have guys that are actually doing stuff or capable of doing things to actually goal to a bowl game or to an All Star game. I think people will look at that and kind of want to be in the same position that we're in so I'm pretty sure they could probably come to this school and maybe get some better recruits," Afariogun said. "Since personally there's going to be a lot of scouts at that game you can look at it as both for the recruiting process and getting us ready to try to make that transition to the NFL."

The game will mark Afariogun's final collegiate football game and hopefully not his last, "I might say maybe the Lions are looking at me since I'm from Detroit. That's, like I said, the only team that really is. I don't really know anything like that."

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