This fall, we saw the last of Dan Persa, Jeremy Ebert and Drake Dunsmore in the royal purple and white. Northwestern's senior class will be hard to replace, but the 'Cats attracted 22 new recruits this past recruiting season. Included in the recruiting class is Ifeadi Odenigbo, a linebacker out of Centerville High School in Centerville, Ohio, who originally saw himself as a track star after his parents initially forbade him from playing football so that he could focus on his grades.
North by Northwestern spoke to Odenigbo and learned all about the future economics major's role models, Rose Bowl dreams and soft spot for Jimi Hendrix. (We've already grilled Odenigbo's recruiting classmate Kyle Prater – check that out here.)
North by Northwestern: Why did you choose Northwestern?
Ifeadi Odenigbo: It actually came down to Stanford, Notre Dame and Northwestern. The reason why I chose Northwestern is because…I feel like team chemistry is one of the most important things. During that fourth quarter, when our team’s trying to come down and score, you need to be close to the guys and...connect well with chemistry to help you win games. And I can see that happening and [I'm] imagining myself in a Northwestern uniform. One of the things that really solidified my commitment to Northwestern was watching each coach play on TV – that’s when you really get to know the true character of a coach, you know? I remember watching Northwestern play Texas A&M, and even though they lost, what I was paying attention to was Coach Fitzgerald – how he responded and how the players responded to him.
NBN: Were there any players in particular that reached out to you and you developed a good relationship with?
IO: I’m of Nigerian decent, so what was cool about that was I got to hang out with David Nwabuisi and Chi-Chi [Ariguzo], who got to show me around. I got to meet a lot of players. It was really cool talking to Chi-Chi because he and I come from similar backgrounds, so that’s one person I really connected with the most. I just got to talk to people from similar backgrounds and it just felt like a good environment.
NBN: How would you describe yourself as a football player?
IO: I’m a football player that responds well in stressful situations, like what Northwestern does. I’m a person that goes to the whistle, who has that fire. I see the team I play for as my family. A person that’s the first one to be there and the last one to leave. I’m well-rounded, your go-to guy. If you need something, I’ll do something good for the team. They’re still speculating on what position I’m going to play – defensive end or outside linebacker – but I really don’t have a preference, [just] what’s best for the team and where the depth’s at.
NBN: If the opportunity to get drafted by an NFL team arises depending on how everything goes here…
IO: Yeah a lot of people ask me about the NFL. It’s never been my goal in life. Like, a lot of football players are "NFL, NFL, NFL," but I come from a different background. Of course, I’d be crazy if I passed up the NFL, but that’s my dream. My goal in life is to get my degree, but my dream is to play in the NFL.
NBN: I remember reading in The Chicago Tribune, you said not winning a Rose Bowl here would be considered a failure for you. Can you talk to me a little about that?
IO: The thing about me is I’m a competitor. And at the end of the day, I hate when kids from school give me crap like "Why did you go to Northwestern? How come you didn’t come to Ohio State or Michigan or a more traditional, powerhouse football team?" I’m just like, I like it here [at Northwestern]. I think it’s more special to start your own tradition than to be a part of something great, if that makes sense to you. Northwestern may not have the tradition of a Notre Dame or an Ohio State, but I’m not going to go in and be pessimistic and say, "Ok, I can settle for mediocrity." I never settled for mediocrity in my life. Never in school, never in track, never on my team, and I’m not going to go to Northwestern and do the same. I’m going to bust my ass and I’m planning on my whole team doing that. So when people are saying, "Hey, don’t you think you’re aiming too high?" I think, if you aim for the stars, even if you miss the stars, you still get to the sky.
NBN: Growing up, were there any players you modeled yourself after or tried to emulate or looked up to?
IO: One person now that I look up to and try to be aggressive like – even though he doesn’t play my position – is Ndamukong Suh. A lot of people don’t like him, but I’ve met him, so I like him personally. Everybody thinks he’s a bad guy, but he’s not a bad guy. And one thing that he has that my coach is always talking about is that flinch. Off the field, you’re a kind guy, everybody likes you, you’re very articulate and sociable. But on the field, you have to have that demeanor, just being greedy and selfish and trying to be a monster and that’s what Ndamukong Suh does.
NBN: Is there any kind of music you like to listen to before a game?
IO: I don’t really have a preference. I don’t listen to, like, screamo or any intense thing. I like to listen to calm, relaxing music, because one thing my coach says is, "Yeah, we want you to be crazy, but don’t become reckless, because when you’re reckless, that’s when you screw up the team and make mental mistakes." Simple music...like “Purple Haze” by Jimi Hendrix.