For­mer Pride line­backer mak­ing his mark in NCAA

Calgary Herald - - SPORTS - TODD SAEL­HOF tsael­ Twit­­hofpm

Amen Og­bongbe­miga has al­ways dreamt big.

Like Nfl-or-bust big.

But to reach such a lofty goal, the kid from Cal­gary has had to learn how to bide his time and find his way through the foot­ball ranks.

“I al­ways reach for the high­est goals,” Og­bongbe­miga said. “I never want to set­tle.”

And so he hasn’t, giv­ing it his all to be­come one the top lineback­ers in the NCAA.

Proof of that is in the hon­our of be­ing named one of five fi­nal­ists for the Jon Cornish Award, given an­nu­ally to the top Cana­dian in U.S. col­lege foot­ball.

“It’s a bless­ing,” said Og­bongbe­miga, who was a high school star in Cal­gary with the renowned Notre Dame Pride. “It’s some­thing that you work for. I don’t re­ally pay at­ten­tion to a lot of that stuff, but it’s al­ways a great hon­our to be rec­og­nized for the things I do.

“But at the end of the day, it’s with the help of my team­mates around me and my coaches.”

Og­bongbe­miga, a line­backer with the Ok­la­homa State Cow­boys, is the only ju­nior among the 2019 nom­i­nees — a class that in­cludes team­mate Chuba Hub­bard.

The sopho­more Hub­bard, a run­ning back out of Sher­wood Park, Alta., is ex­pected to run away with the votes for the Cornish award, wrest­ing it away from de­fend­ing two-time winner Nathan Rourke, a quar­ter­back from Oakville, Ont., with the Ohio Bob­cats, and fel­low se­niors Chase Clay­pool, a re­ceiver out of Ab­bots­ford, B.C., with the Notre Dame Fight­ing Ir­ish, and Neville Gal­limore, a de­fen­sive tackle from Ot­tawa with the Ok­la­homa Soon­ers.

And Og­bongbe­miga fore­casts that, as well, say­ing af­ter “a phe­nom­e­nal year, Chuba de­serves it.”

But that doesn’t di­min­ish what Og­bongbe­miga brought to the field in 2019.

“Og­bongbe­miga has de­vel­oped as a top side­line-to-side­line line­backer with out­stand­ing speed with the abil­ity to pur­sue in the open field,” ac­cord­ing to the award’s vot­ing bloc, which is com­prised of a panel of jour­nal­ists, CFL front-of­fice staff and other foot­ball gu­rus.

As a de­fen­sive team cap­tain and red­shirt ju­nior, Og­bongbe­miga was the re­cip­i­ent of Ok­la­homa State’s Les­lie O’neal Award as the team’s de­fen­sive MVP.

He was a sec­ond-team all-big 12 se­lec­tion by the coaches, ranked sec­ond on the team and sixth in the Big 12 Con­fer­ence with 100 tack­les and ranked fifth in the con­fer­ence with 15.5 tack­les for loss.

To boot, the 21-year-old Og­bongbe­miga is a three-time first­team Big 12 aca­demic se­lec­tion.

“It was crazy,” Og­bongbe­miga said. “When the year started, I kind of knew my role was go­ing to in­crease, but you never know what’s go­ing to ac­tu­ally hap­pen. Noth­ing is never handed to you, so I had to work for it and com­pete. Some peo­ple they can come in and play as a fresh­man — that’s prob­a­bly every­body’s dream. But for others, you’ve got to wait your turn and work to­ward it. You can’t just walk in and ex­pect it to be handed to you.

“So you have to ac­cept your role on the team — like on spe­cial teams or just get­ting a couple of snaps a game — and make the most of it. That’s kind of what I did from Day 1 — ac­cept my role and try to max­i­mize ev­ery­thing. I just took ad­van­tage of ev­ery sin­gle op­por­tu­nity I had.

“It was good to see my ef­forts pay off.”

He is be­ing seen, all right.

Just as his voice is be­ing heard in Still­wa­ter, Okla.

“I bring peo­ple to­gether on the team,” said Og­bongbe­miga. “I can co-or­di­nate a lot of stuff. If things aren’t go­ing well, I can be the per­son to calm the sit­u­a­tion and get every­body’s heads back level. … I kind of grew do­ing that.

“You have to earn that po­si­tion to do that — you can’t do that as a fresh­man, re­ally, be­cause peo­ple don’t know your voice. But as years go by, you can try to earn that re­spect from peo­ple, and that’s some­thing that I take pride in do­ing.”

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