WVU football: Ezemma hopes to get name out there
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- He is a transfer from a Division II college who is still a walk-on in his second season at West Virginia, so it seems unlikely he'll realize his goal in 2012, no matter how simple it may sound.
"My goal really is to get my name out there," he said.
True, WVU has a history of walk-ons who become big deals on campus, but that name may never get out there like it should - because that name is Chidoziem Ezemma.
For the purpose of convenience and camaraderie, the people close to him call him Dozie. He's the son of Nigerian immigrants and it's the example set by Ambrose and Glory, who left for New York when they were married and old enough for college, that has inspired Ezemma.
He's been through costly position changes in high school, the upsetting lack of scholarship offers and the sometimes sad existence as a Division II player before tackling his goal when he arrived at WVU last summer.
Thanks to a serviceable year on the scout team last season and a standout spring, Ezemma is now a sculpted 6-foot-2, 228-pound junior working as a backup at the hybrid defensive end/linebacker position for the Mountaineers.
"When you're back in Nigeria, everyone wants to come to the U.S.A. so they can make it for themselves," said Ezemma, one of five children. "The USA is a place of opportunity. For (Ezemma's parents), they took a big leap. They came here for college and from what I know, they didn't have much money. My dad used to drive a taxi for money.
"But what they really preached to us was school, school, school. I knew I had a dream, so I said I was going to go after it."
His mother went to Long Island University and became a registered nurse. His father went to Touro College and became a professor specializing in computers. Ezemma is studying computer engineering, but hoping to master football in the fall.
Ezemma was a receiver in high school at Ramapo High, in Spring Valley, N.Y., about a half-hour north of New York City, and beginning to get interest from Syracuse and some FCS schools as a junior. Ezemma was moved to defensive end his senior season.
"It messed up my recruiting," he said.
He still managed eight sacks, 14 tackles for loss and 70 tackles as a senior and was all-section, all-county and all-league, as well as his school's athlete of the year.
Syracuse remained interested, but changed coaches and that changed the plans the Orange had for the 2009 recruiting class.
Connecticut was a possibility, but interest began too close to signing day.
Rhode Island offered some scholarship assistance at the FCS level, but Ezemma wound up at Division II University of New Haven (Conn.).
In two seasons, he had 34 tackles and in his second season was second on the team with 7 1/2 tackles for a loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles. New Haven went 8-2 in 2010 and won the Northeast 10 championship.
"I was kind of like the Bruce Irvin of Division II," he said.
Yet he was frustrated. Ezemma said the Division II practices focused more on technique than activity because many of the players at that level were still raw or just not athletic enough to get by on ability. The speed of the game also wasn't as fast or as crisp as what he's witnessing now.
Ezemma felt he had the talent to do more and eventually realized he could no longer linger in Division II.
"There were certain points where I went through a lot of depression." he said. "You go through a Division II football game and do a good job and the next day you have guys on the team talking about how Ohio State is doing. It's like nobody cares. Alumni, at most. But go to the coaches and they're talking about how (Florida State) is doing."
The close calls with Syracuse and Connecticut convinced Ezemma he could play in Division I. He figured the teaching and the playing time at New Haven could only help. He sent out tapes and ended up picking WVU over Kent State and Buffalo, among others.
"I almost went to Pitt," he said. "That's funny, right?"
On campus still less than a year, he's fixed muscle to a frame that carried just 200 pounds the day he unpacked. He says he can be at 240 pounds "in no time." The training staff wants him eating six times a day, though that can be hard for a walk-on who is only able to get free protein shakes from the team and can't indulge in any of the free meals players with a scholarship enjoy.
Ezemma instead bulks up with pasta, oatmeal, eggs and other inexpensive foods that help him with his weight. There are few delicacies, but he won't be denied.
"The way I see it, I got this far so I'm not stopping," said Ezemma, who's involved in the Christian fellowship on campus. "God brought me to this point and he's not going to take it away. I don't have any doubts opposite of the way I feel."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.