Villanova University Wildcats
Rancocas Valley High School and Willingboro High School
After anchoring the Wildcats' offensive line from the left offensive tackle position for the last 53 games, Ijalana is not only working hard in preparing for his move to the National Football League but expects to learn how to compete as an offensive guard at the next level.
With his superb drive blocking skills and talent working on combo blocks, it seems like it will be a natural progression for the All-American who became the tenth player to win the Tri-State Player of the Year Award (top player in the Delaware Valley) as a senior. He is so well respected in college football circles that he was the only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision performer to be named to the 2010 Outland Trophy Watch List, an honor generally bestowed on the top major-college lineman.
Ijalana has grown mentally and physically since he arrived as an overweight high school lineman in 2007. "I wrestled in high school so I was around 280 pounds as a senior," Ijalana said. "I made the mistake most high school linemen make. I thought I had to gain weight before I got to college so I started putting on weight."
It wasn't good weight. "Working at McDonald's didn't help," Ijalana said. He showed up on campus in the fall of 2007 at 310 pounds. Although he was talented enough to start as a true freshman vs. Maryland that year and went on to start 53 consecutive games in his collegiate career, Ijalana wasn't in shape and he quickly realized that if he wanted to have a successful college career, he had to get with the program, which he did.
Ijalana threw himself into Villanova's strength and conditioning program. Four years later, the difference is noticeable. "My body is completely different," he said. "I've only gained 5 or 10 pounds since I got here, but it's a different kind of weight. I've learned how to take care of my body. I eat better. I work out the right way. I'm doing the things to make myself bigger, stronger and faster. Your body is a weapon and that weapon has to be fine tuned if you want to be successful."
Ijalana does not measure success in personal accolades, of which he has many. He earned first-team All-American honors as a junior and senior, along with being a three-time, first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association selection. In addition to the Outland Trophy, Ijalana was a candidate for the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision. He was also the only lineman on the Walter Payton watch list.
"It's nice," Ijalana said of his honors. "It's a prestigious honor to be on those lists. My father knows about the Outland Trophy so I know it's something that my parents are happy about. It's a testament to my coaches who worked with me over the year. I'm not the same player I was when I got here, some big, fat kid. I got sculpted up. I've improved my technique and I still have a lot of work to do, but it's a testament to the coaching staff and the program."
But it's not what drives him. "I just want to win," said Ijalana, who attended Willingboro High School for two years before transferring to Rancocas Valey High School in New Jersey. "In my four years of high school we were 0-10, 0-10, 3-7 and 1-9. We won seven games my freshman year here so that's more wins that I had in all of high school. Coming off a season like last year where we won 14 games (and the national championship), not to use the word spoiled, but you do become accustomed to winning. You understand that it takes a lot of hard work, but you expect to win.
"That's what it's become. I expect to win. I don't expect it to me an easy victory, but when that clock hits zeroes, I expect to be on the winning side. That's why I had such a bad taste in my mouth after Temple. We let that one get away." Ijalana doesn't like the taste of losing, which is why he is always ready to go to work well before practice is even scheduled to start. "Losing made me hungry to succeed," the offensive tackle states.
"It also showed me how much I love this game. Why would you continue to play a sport in his school when you're not winning? Why do it when there's no real pride to walk around in your jersey? It's because this is what I want to do. That's what drives me. I wake up in the morning feeling like an old man sometimes, but I can't wait to get to practice to work on my craft, do what I like to do. Winning makes it all worthwhile."
After two seasons at Willingboro High School, Ijalana enjoyed his most personal success during his final two prep seasons at Rancocas Valey High. The New Brunswick, N.J., native was a two-way lineman, earning Burlington County Times All-County, Trentonian All-Area and All-South Jersey second-team honors. He also excelled in wrestling, capturing the district heavyweight championship.
Ijalana enrolled at Villanova in 2007, immediately taking over the demanding left offensive tackle duties. It was "baptism under fire" for the inexperienced offense, as the unit ranked 91st in the nation with an average of 326.09 yards per game. The front wall allowed a Colonial Athletic Association-high 35 quarterback sacks, the 107th-worst total in the FCS ranks.
Dedication in the training room helped Ijalana transform his body into a solid 325 pounds for the 2008 season. He received All-CAA honors after delivering 89 knockdowns. The team still ranked at the bottom of the league and national charts by allowing 34 sacks, but the Wildcats revived their ground game, accounting for twelve of their 31 rushing touch-downs around left tackle while finishing second in the league and 12th in the country in run offense (213.77 ypg).
Ijalana became a first-team All-American as a junior, as he again made the All-CAA first-team squad. He registered 16 touchdown-resulting blocks and 116 knockdowns. Villanova capitalized on his drive blocking skills to lead the association while ranking fourth nationally with an average of 240.27 yards per game rushing, as they also led the CAA with 385.6 total yards per game.
Ijalana was a consensus All-American as a senior, adding All-CAA first-team honors. He was part of a strong senior class which led the Wildcats to a third consecutive playoff appearance for the first time in school history. Villanova advanced to the semifinals of the FCS playoffs, knocking off two higher-seeded teams on the road along the way. Their left tackle produced 118 knockdowns for a team that led the conference in rushing (194.86 ypg) and averaged 370.0 yards per game in total offense.
Ijalana was the first Villanova player to receive an invitation to the Senior Bowl since Brian Westbrook in 2002, but it was discovered that he played with a sports hernia during his final campaign. He underwent surgery on Dec. 28, preventing him from competing in any all-star contests.
Still, he was excited about even being invited to that prestigious bowl game. "It's such an honor and I definitely didn't see it coming," said Ijalana. "I guess it shows how far our program has come where now we have Senior Bowl invites and personally it's my chance to compete against the top guys in the country and just see for myself (where I stack up)."
Benjamin Ijalana — Collegiate Images
Ijalana started 53 consecutive games for Villanova, all at the demanding left offensive tackle position…Finished with 360 knockdowns, an average of 6.79 per game, as he added 51 touchdown-resulting blocks…In 2010, he was not only the only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision performer to be named to the Outland Trophy Watch List, but he was also the only lineman to be a candidate for the Walter Payton Award…Is just the tenth offensive lineman in school history to earn All-American honors and is the only one to do it twice in a career (2009-10)…Joined end John G. Wysocki (1937-38), receiver Brian Finneran (1996-97) and running back Brian Westbrook (1998, 2000, 2001) as the only Villanova players to earn All-American accolades more than once in a career…Joined offensive tackle Bill Lacy (1991-93) as the only Wildcats offensive linemen to earn All-Conference honors three times in a career…The team compiled a 40-13 record with Ijalana manning the left tackle position.
2010 seasonBecame Villanova's fourth two-time All-American first-team selection when he was honored by The NFL Draft Report, Walter Camp Foundation and the Sports Network, adding second-team honors from the Associated Press…Was the only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision lineman to be named to the Outland Trophy Watch List and was the only lineman to be a candidate for the Walter Payton Award…Added All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team honors for the third-straight season…Started all fourteen games at left offensive tackle, but could not compete in all-star games after undergoing sports hernia surgery on December 28th…Registered a career-best 118 knockdowns and 17 touchdown-resulting blocks, as the Wildcats led the CAA and finished 20th in the nation with an average of 194.86 rushing yards per game, as Villanova also averaged 370.00 total yards per game…The front wall still struggled with pass protection issues, as they tied for 64th in the nation by allowing 28 sacks (2.00 spg)…In the post-season, Ijalana was named the winner of the 10th Tri-State Player of the Year Award, given in recognition of being the top collegiate player in the Delaware Valley. He is the third player from the Wildcats and the second in as many years to win the prestigious award. Last season, Matt Szczur claimed the award. Brian Westbrook became the first Wildcat to win the Tri-State Award when he claimed the inaugural honor in 2001.
Ijalana was named All-American first-team by The NFL Draft Report, Sports Network and Walter Camp, receiving second-team accolades from the Associated Press…Added All-CAA first-team honors for the second consecutive year, becoming the Wildcats first offensive lineman to receive back-to-back conference acclaim…Started all fifteen games at left offensive tackle, collecting sixteen touchdown-resulting blocks for a ground attack that scored 36 times and led the league while finishing fourth in the country with an average of 240.27 yards rushing per game...The front wall allowed 36 sacks, worst in the CAA while ranking 92nd in the NCAA 92.47 spg)…Was one of 106 student-athletes that were nominated for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, which honors college football players who make outstanding contributions in the areas of volunteerism and civic involvement.
All-Colonial Athletic Association first-team choice…Extended his consecutive start string to 24 games, starting thirteen contests at left tackle as a sophomore…Credited with 89 knockdowns and twelve touchdown-resulting blocks, but the offensive line failed to protect the pocket, ranking tenth in the league and 93rd in the nation by allowing 34 sacks (2.62 spg)…The ground game jelled behind their left tackle, producing 31 touchdowns on the way to ranking 12th in the FCS with an average of 213.77 yards per game rushing.
Ijalana took over left tackle duties as a true freshman, starting all eleven games…Came up with six touchdown-resulting blocks as the Wildcats averaged 326.09 yards per game in total offense, but the young offensive line placed 107th nationally by allowing an average of 3.18 sacks (35 total) per game.
2010 Season…Could not play in any postseason all-star games after undergoing sports hernia surgery on December 28th.
Campus agility tests
5.22 in the 40-yard dash…1.76 10-yard dash…3.01`20-yard dash…4.68 20-yard shuttle… 7.68 three-cone drill…28-inch vertical jump…8'2" broad jump…450-pound bench press… 36-inch arm length…10 _-inch hands…83 3/8-inch wingspan.
Attended Willingboro (N.J.) High School as a freshman and sophomore before transferring to Rancocas Valley (N.J.) High School for his final two seasons…Received a three-star prospect rating from Scout.com and was rated the eighth-best offensive lineman in the state by that recruiting service…Finalist for the Jim Henry Award and was honored with a Mini-Max by the Montville Football Conference…Earned Burlington County Times All-County, Trentonian All-Area and second-team All-South Jersey as a senior…Also lettered in wrestling at Rancocas High, winning the district heavyweight title…Rancocas also produced former National Football League players Alonzo Spellman, Franco Harris, and Irving Fryar.
Criminal Justice major…Son of Elizabeth and Festus Ijalana…Born 8/06/89 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.
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