Iweka hopes to return to his roots

Coming out of high school, Arizona Western DT Emeka Iweka (6-5, 310) was one of the most highly regarded players in the state of Washington and on the west coast. He had offers to play basketball and football from Pac 10 schools, but opted to play for his hometown school. After not qualifying, he headed south and greyshirted in 2007. Now he's ready to fulfill his dream of playing college football.

"Last year was real hard on me," Iweka admitted to JCFootball.com. "It was tough watching the guys play football while I was on the sidelines because this is the first year I had ever not been playing a sport.

"It was also hard on me because it was a long ways from home and it made me grow up. That's why it was so good for me to get away though. Because it made me get away from stuff up in Seattle that was going on and it made me mature and take responsibility for things in my life that I might not have done if I had stayed around there."

One of the biggest things for Iweka was getting his academics in order.

"I sorta messed around a lot in high school and didn't take things seriously," Iweka said. "I was a goof-off and I really paid a big price because I didn't get into the school I wanted to go to to play ball and I didn't get to go be with my friends there."

The school he signed with was Washington and he chose the Huskies over an offer from Oregon State to play basketball and interest from schools like Washington State, Oregon, Cal and USC.

"All those schools wanted me to come play for them, but some knew I probably wasn't going to qualify so they never offered," Iweka said.

After figuring out he wasn't going to make it in to Washington, Iweka was pointed in the direction of Arizona Western and he hit the ground running in August, literally.

"I blew out my Achilles playing basketball for my high school in February (of 2007)," Iweka said. "It was hard because I had never really been injured before that."

Because he couldn't do cardio, Iweka gained weight, so he got to work almost immediately when he arrived in Arizona.

"I was 325 and I wasn't in good shape, but that heat will make you in shape real quick," Iweka added with a laugh. "I started running and hitting the weights right when I got there and I got back in shape pretty quickly.

"I'm a solid 310 now and that's what I plan to play at this coming fall."

Iweka greyshirted at Arizona Western last fall and hit the books hard as well.

"I've really gotten it together (academically)," Iweka said. "I'm actually ahead on my coursework so I am hoping I will be able to leave in December."

While he was visiting his family over Christmas Break back in December, Iweka also made a call to the head coach he wanted to play for.

"I called coach (Tyrone) Willingham and we talked for a while," Iweka said. "He asked me if I still wanted to be a Dawg and I told him I did because I love that school and I want to go play ball for them.

"I've been working with U-Dub to make sure I'm taking the right classes to get in there and to make sure my grades are where they need to be. My plan is to be there as soon as possible."

Iweka said while he hopes to be able to finish up in December -- he plans to take a full-load of classes over the summer -- he is unsure if he will be able to finish in time to graduate in December and may have to wait until May of 2009 before he finishes his two-year degree.

Either way, if he's able to enroll at a four-year school in 2009 he'll have four years to play three and that is likely to be coveted by many programs that have lost track of him.

"I haven't had a lot of teams sending me stuff or calling yet, but I think that's because most schools don't know what happened to me," Iweka said. "My coaches said once schools can come to spring practices and watch us work out, that I will probably get a lot of interest.

"I want to go play for U-Dub, but if that doesn't work out UCLA is a school I want to try and get into and there are some other schools that I will look at if things don't work out, but like I said, my plan is to go to Washington."

We'll continue to follow Iweka's progress over the next few months and update things as the spring evaluation period gets underway.

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