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Odighizuwa puts Oregon on map

PORTLAND, Ore. -- For years, the best college football prospect in Oregon wanted nothing to do with pigskin.

It's ironic, considering Owamagbe Odighizuwa was born where the Buckeyes play -- in Columbus, Ohio, the heart of Big Ten football.

The truth is, Odighizuwa just wasn't that interested. He preferred basketball, or track. His mother, A.B, didn't want him to play, fearing her oldest son would get hurt. Odighizuwa says he didn't even know what football was until the sixth grade.

Talk about a 180-degree turn.

Now a senior at David Douglas High in Northeast Portland, the 6-foot-3, 234-pound Odighizuwa is one of the most coveted defensive ends in the nation. He is rated by Rivals.com as the No. 2 defensive end in the country and has narrowed his list of schools to Oregon, Oregon State, Florida, Nebraska, USC, UCLA and Cal.

"It feels good, but I don't let it get over my head," Odighizuwa said. "I think it's a privilege to be offered by so many schools, [to be] recognized for your hard work every day. It's something I take very seriously."

To some degree, it's remarkable that Odighizuwa is in his current position. As a child, he moved to Nigeria, A.B.'s native country, for five years, when it became too expensive for her to raise four boys on her own. He and his brother, Ighodaro, stayed with their grandmother. When they returned to the states, Odighizuwa still had no interest in playing football, even though many of his friends encouraged him to join. He started playing in the eighth grade. Five years later, he's a benchmark.

"He forces teams to look at the field and say, 'How are we gonna get to the edge with him out there?'" said David Douglas coach Dan Wood.

Shawn Stanley, whose West Salem squad played David Douglas this season and in 2008, agrees with Wood.

"Playing him is the only time we've assigned two guys to block one person," Stanley said. "We told the kids, 'Your job is to block him regardless of whatever else happens.' There were times we'd line up at the line of scrimmage and decide which play to run based on which side he was on.

Odighizuwa says that while he understands that other teams preparing specifically for him is a sign of respect, he wouldn't mind seeing an offensive scheme where he only has to go against one guy every once in awhile.

"It's kinda frustrating to know that they're gonna send more than one guy to try and block you," said Odighizuwa, who recorded 18 sacks in Mt. Hood Conference play last year. "I still try to do what I can and get some sacks."

When he doesn't get sacks, people ask questions.

Two weeks ago when West Salem upset then No. 10 David Douglas and Odighizuwa recorded no sacks, message boards posters wanted to know, "What happened to Owa?"

What happened is that Odighizuwa recorded 10 tackles, including one for loss, according to Wood.

"Sometimes the media creates expectations and that can leave Owa saying, 'What's wrong with me?'" Wood said. "And the answer is, 'You're pretty damn good, Owa.'"

Wood, who has coached for more than 20 years, said he's never had a high school athlete "even close" to Odighizuwa's athleticism. Stanley said Odighizuwa's rare combination of speed, strength and power makes him rare, and virtually impossible to simulate in practice.

Though he's in no rush to pick a college, Odighizuwa says the fact that he'll be able to get his education paid for is not lost on him, or his family.

"My mom's been raising four boys on her own," he said. "She doesn't have to worry about how she's going to pay for school. I know that would be impossible if I didn't get any scholarships."

Odighizuwa first caught the eye of local college coaches his sophomore year at David Douglas. Last January, after the U.S. Army Junior Combine in Texas, interest increased, which was exactly what Odighizuwa wanted.

"My goal was to get recognized," Odighizuwa said. "My goal was to put my name out there because I know schools don't recruit much out of Oregon.

"I wanted to kinda put it on the map."

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