1st Play Memorable For Wisdom Onyegbule

Wisdom Onyegbule (Holly Smith)

It isn't often a college football walkon sees game action. It is extremely rare when he gets to make a big play on his first center snap. But Illini defensive tackle Wisdom Onyegbule did just that. It encourages him to keep working hard to help the school and football program he loves.

Wisdom Onyegbule came to Illinois from Bolingbrook without benefit of a scholarship. In fact, his original intent did not include football.

"I was originally recruited for track, shot put and discus, so that's what I did when I first came here."

Why did he choose Illinois?

"I'm from Illinois, it's the best school in the state. I always liked it. I used to watch the games all the time, and I decided it was where I wanted to go."

The lure of football caused him to change sports.

"I always loved football. I was watching the games, and I just couldn't pass it up. I loved football so much I just had to come and do it."

Onyegbule switched positions this last winter in the hope of seeing playing time.

"It was a whole different experience. I started at defensive end. Coach (Keith Gilbert) said my best chance to play was to go to d-tackle. So I decided to put in the work in the weight room, got bigger and stronger, ate a little more and gained a little weight."

Now 6'-3", 280 pounds, Onyegbule saw backup action for the Illini this past season. He will never forget his first stap from center in the SIU game.

"I got a fumble recovery. It was my first play of the season. I was excited just to be out there. Seeing the ball on the ground, I just couldn't miss the opportunity. You've got to take every chance you get."

Walkons work as hard as any scholarship player but enjoy few rewards. Seeing action on the field feels special.

"Yeah it does. It's exciting every chance I get to play. I look forward to it, just helping out my team."

Onyegbule was asked what fans should look for when he plays.

"I'm a big person with a lot of speed. I'm a playmaker, so have them look for me to make plays."

He has one more year of eligibility. With Corey Liuget leaving for the pros, Illinois needs defensive line depth. To get into the mix, there are aspects of his game he wants to improve.

"Basic things like pad level, being consistent with it. My conditioning and all that. Try to do my best and give 100% on every play."

Onyegbule has toiled under two defensive line coaches, Tom Sims and present leader Keith Gilbert. He feels he has benefitted some from each.

"They are a lot alike. There are a lot of differences, but at the end of the day they all talk about the same thing. They want to make us capable of winning every week.

"It has helped me because they don't teach you the exact same things. So I take a little bit from Coach Sims, a little bit from Coach Gilmore and add it together."

When his football career ends, Onyegbule still has a promising career ahead of him.

"I'm in pre-pharmacy, so I'll probably go to Pharmacy School. My major is Pre-Pharmacy/Community Health."

IlliniPlaybook.com Recommended Stories