Occasionally, Prince Emili still makes a statement or asks a question that reminds his coach about the facts. Sure, he may be built like an anvil and chases running backs like a cheetah, but, in truth, Emili is pretty clearly a football novice learning on the fly.
“The other night, he had a question. It was something about defense, about basic football terminology, that he didn’t know,” Clarkstown North coach Joe Trongone said of his senior lineman. “He’s still learning the terminology, but, once he learns everything, this kid is going to be tremendous.”
In fact, in just his third year playing football, tremendous — tremendous gifts, tremendous focus — only begins to describe Emili. Not long ago, he was a raw freshman begging his parents, Nigerian immigrants, for the OK to play. He now stands as a 298-pound force with standing Division I offers from four of the best colleges in the country.
“Now they see what I could’ve missed out on if I wouldn’t have played,” Emili said. “They are ecstatic. They’re happy I’m receiving the attention I’m getting. This is the best-case scenario.”
Although Emili had wanted to play football, the chief visionary was actually his older sister, Uche, who played sports during her years at Clarkstown North. She supported her brother’s intention to play football from the beginning and finally made a serious pitch to her father, Gregory, as he drove her back to college in Baltimore three years ago.
Uche thought Prince had the physical gifts to star on the field and didn’t share her parents’ main concern, that the game could have an adverse affect on his academics.
She summarized the pitch like this: “Look, this kid needs to play football. Trust me, it will work out to our advantage.”
“You see how big he is and you see the greatness that could come out of that size,” said Uche, who is now 20 and a senior at Loyola. “It would’ve been a shame to see it go to waste. He’s a great kid, a smart kid. I had to do something. Thankfully, they listened.”
Uche can remind her family of her role in that decision because of what it has wrought. After a sometimes frustrating beginning as a raw sophomore, Emili developed into a first-team all-county lineman as a junior. He should be a force at his primary position, defensive tackle, and will shift from center to tackle as a senior.
His dedication to the Rams’ strength program has allowed Emili to gain roughly 80 pounds since his sophomore year, including nearly 40 alone since last season. Still, he has maintained 4.9-second speed in the 40-yard dash, and that package has resulted in offers from Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Penn, the type of elite schools his parents could only have imagined for his future.
Emili has strengthened his grades like his body, scoring a 2,090 out of 2,400 on his SATs while carrying nearly a 4.0 grade-point average.
Still, “football really helped me get into the best schools,” he said. “It was the key to the kingdom.”
“I thank God for my children. They look out for one another,” said Emili’s mother, Florence. “(Uche) is really very happy. Each time, she reminds me that it’s good for siblings to work together. Maybe he wouldn’t have had this opportunity.”
Up until a few years ago — his older brother John played at Clarkstown North — Emili’s family had little knowledge of football. His parents had moved from Nigeria in 1991 when his father, a doctor, began his residency in the Bronx. Along with the help of his wife, a former nurse, Dr. Emili has since opened his own practice there, Balm of Gilead, which focuses on internal medicine and pain management. The family recently opened another office in Spring Valley.
Emili hopes to run the family business one day and plans to study pre-med while playing football somewhere in the Ivy League. Of course, before he trades in his jersey for a white coat, Emili has plenty to accomplish on the field.
Remember: He’s only just getting started.
“That’s why I’m so excited for my career in college,” he said. “I still have a lot of growing to do and a lot of technique to learn. Each year I play, I can feel myself mature as a player. I’m a lot more comfortable in the pads and there’s a lot less thinking involved.”