Ifeadi Odenigbo knows UA Game history

A.J. Green. Da'Quan Bowers. Ifeadi Odenigbo.

The first two names are well known to college football fans across the country, and it might not be long before the last of those three lurks into America's college consciousness.

Green and Bowers were former ESPNU 150 prospects who starred at the Under Armour All-America Game before having dominant college careers and getting selected in the NFL draft.
Odenigbo is hoping to take that same path, which began Wednesday morning when he was presented with his jersey for the 2012 Under Armour All-America Game, to be played Jan. 5 in St. Petersburg, Fla., and shown on ESPN. It was part of the 80-stop American Family Insurance presents the Under Armour All-America Game selection tour.

"I was thinking about people like A.J. Green and how he played in the Under Armour game and he was a first-round draft pick. And people like Da'Quan Bowers," Odenigbo said of the presentation. "A lot of successful people have played in the Under Armour Game.

"It's pretty cool I'm going to be playing in it."

Odenigbo, ranked No. 51 in the ESPNU 150 and a four-star defensive end from Centerville (Ohio), started feeling the nerves early Wednesday morning when he began getting dressed for the event. Normally an outgoing person, Odenigbo began fearing one of the things he loves to do: talk.

The ceremony took place in the news room at Centerville High School, where cameras filmed the presentation and broadcasted it to the entire school during morning announcements. All the roughly 3,000 pairs of eyes that come through the high school every morning were on Odenigbo.

"I was extremely nervous. I started getting nervous when I had to dress up," he said with a laugh. "I was thinking about it and thinking about it. I didn't know what to say, but it came out pretty well."

Much like his skills on the football field -- he has no issue admitting he wasn't very good his first year of high school football as a sophomore -- Odenigbo struggled with public speaking at first. He feels a lot better about it now, though he's used to talking to a classroom of 30 kids or a handful of reporters, not an entire high school.

"Never to a crowd like this," Odenigbo said. "When I first started speaking I was God-awful -- I kept on moving my face.

"I learned a lot and have a lot of experience now."

Odenigbo says he is most looking forward to meeting the other Under Armour players and seeing where he stacks up, but that is still more than three months away. For now, he is trying to extend his senior season, which is in serious jeopardy of ending without a playoff berth.

The Elks are 2-3, with one of those wins coming against a team from Canada. With five games remaining, Odenigbo said the coaching staff told the team a 5-0 finish would likely land them seventh in the district, barely making the eight-team field. Anything less than a perfect record to end the season and Odenigbo's Centerville career will come to an end in October.

"I personally think we can go 5-0. The first four games were just a gauntlet," said Odenigbo, whose Elks squad faced elite opponents Elder (Cincinnati), Cathedral (Indianapolis) and St. Ignatious (Cleveland) three of the first four weeks. "Now we're playing in our own division, and we're probably the strongest team.

"I'm trying to play every game like it's my last. I never know what's going to happen. I'm so fortunate to play high school football. I'm trying to cherish these last five games, because I'll never get these five games back."

Jared Shanker covers Midwest recruiting. He can be reached at jshankerespn@gmail.com.