future may be in football, but the Centerville (Ohio)
senior authored one memory CHS track and field coach Matt Somerlot can't shake. And for good reason: he doesn't want to.
At last year's Division I regional track meet, Odenigbo was implanted as the Elks' anchor in the 800-meter relay after he failed to qualify for the finals in the 100. Running the event for the first time all season and replacing regular Tristan Boykin who volunteered to make room, Odenigbo helped the Elks win the event and ultimately their first regional team title ever. After that Odenigbo gave Somerlot something he'll never forget.
"Following the awards ceremony, Ifeadi came back up to our camp and handed his medal (from the 800 relay) to Tristan and said 'This is your medal…It's not mine,'" Somerlot said. "It was one of the proudest moments I've ever had in teaching and coaching."
Said Odenigbo: "(Tristan) was the bigger man. He's the one who sacrificed for the team and that was his medal. I didn't deserve to wear it around my neck."
Odenigbo is different in many ways.
For the 6-foot-4, 215-pound outside linebacker prospect, athleticism and speed are two of the main reasons he is ranked No. 49 on the MaxPreps Top 100 Football Recruits List
"He's one of the fastest players we've ever had here, period," Centerville head coach Ron Ullery said. "When we time him in the 40 (yard dash) he legitimately turns in low 4.4s and high 4.3s hand-timed."
Odenigbo, who runs the 100, 200, 400 and 110 hurdles in track, is also a fast study. The son of Nigerian immigrants, he was the first in his family to be born in the United States and just started playing football seriously as a sophomore. After playing wide receiver – and not very successfully – in the eighth grade, Odenigbo sat out his freshman season. It was a family decision.
"My parents believe that your most important year of high school is your freshman year because you want to establish a solid base," Odenigbo said. "They told me if my grades were good enough they'd let me go out my sophomore year. I had a 3.3 gpa after my freshman year so I got to play."
"He's a late bloomer," joked Ullery. "He didn't know how good he was."
Following a short-lived flirtation with offense, Odenigbo landed on the end of the defensive line. The results have been amazing.
Seeing limited minutes as a sophomore, Odenigbo blossomed last year as a member of a Centerville front that included then-seniors Michael Bennett and Kyle Rose.
It's fitting Odenigbo and Bennett shared time on the same line, because according to Ullery the two are the most highly recruited players Centerville has produced.
"Everybody has some top-level players and you expect them to have great years," Ullery said. "(Ifeadi) has to have an off the chart season for us to do what we want. He can't just be solid, he has to play great. Michael Bennett played great all the time. He's the best high school offensive lineman I've ever seen by far and Ifeadi can be that type of player if he wants to be. He can be at that level. The sky is the limit."
Odenigbo holds more than 30 scholarship offers from BCS schools including Oklahoma, Oregon, Alabama, Nebraska, Michigan and Wisconsin. His final five? Ohio State, Northwestern, California, Stanford and Notre Dame. The fact that his list includes more academic powers than athletic ones is by design.
He has no timetable on a decision.
"I've never really been the smartest guy," said Odenigbo, who carries a 3.2 gpa. "There are people who just wake up in the morning and are naturally smart and have a 4.0. That's not me. But I'm thinking I can channel this football scholarship and use it as an instrument to get me into a school I most likely couldn't get into without it. I want to make the best of it."
Odenigbo got his work ethic and drive from his parents, who after arriving from Nigeria spent time in New Jersey and Illinois before landing jobs in Dayton. His father works as a civil engineer for a local municipality, and his mother is a physician. Odenigbo's older brother is a pre-med student at Cincinnati. His younger brother, who rivals him in size, is a sophomore for Centerville (and playing his first year of football).
"My mom has caught on to football, but my dad (a former squash player) still struggles to pick it up," Odenigbo joked. "At our playoff game last year against Wayne when we scored a touchdown my dad started yelling ‘Home run, home run.' He's got time to pick it up, though."
Good thing his son is a quick learner. Eric Frantz is the Managing Editor of
JJHuddle.com and the Publisher of miamivalleysports.com and MVP
Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.Sunday: Valley Christian (San Jose, Calif.) impassioned and athletic Byron Marshall, the nation's No. 48 recruit.