Obinna Eze arrived in the Nashville area as an intimidating figure on the basketball court.
Now, Eze,a 6-foot-7, 280-pound offensive lineman, is a coveted force on the football field.
“I was a basketball player in Nigeria,” said Eze, a Davidson Academy senior. “I had been to the United States previously. I came for an AAU Tournament. I started having a lot of coaches contact my basketball coach and wanted to give me the opportunity to play. I came here on a basketball scholarship, but my guardian was like, your body is perfect for football as a tackle. I called my mom and said, ‘Hey, here’s what he’s saying.’ She said, ‘OK, make football your second sport.’”
However, football quickly became Eze’s first sport.
The basketball background has proved beneficial for the four-star offensive tackle, who has offers from 12 Southeastern Conference schools, Duke, Michigan, Louisville and Memphis. Eze is No. 5 on this year’s Dandy Dozen, consisting of the top senior college football prospects in Middle Tennessee as selected by The Tennessean high-school sports staff with input from area high school coaches and recruiting services.
- Obinna Eze has four SEC schools in top six
- Davidson duo new to football already major college prospects
“He came in as a basketball player with no knowledge of football,” Davidson Academy coach Jonathan Quinn said. “We threw a pass in the first game (junior varsity) last year. The guy he was blocking took off to chase the ball, and Obinna took off after him and tackled him. The referee had to tell him, ‘Hey, big guy, you’re on offense.’ He really started off from ground zero.”
All of those offers are in place despite the fact that the 18-year-old has yet to play in a varsity game. Eze played for the Bears’ junior varsity team last fall due to Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association rules for exchange students.
“Now, I just love it,” Eze said. “Your body hurts the next morning, but you feel like you gave it your all. You get used to that. To get through a football game, you have to be violent. The only way to get through a football game healthy is to be more violent.”
The offers were extended following last season.
“You haven’t played a varsity down and you have these offers from some of the best programs in the country,” Quinn said. “The expectations are high. What he’s learning and what people need to understand is that it’s still his first year of 11-on-11 football. This isn’t one-on-one. This isn’t camp. You have to do some things differently.”
He’ll also be on the basketball court for Davidson Academy once football season ends.
“I’m excited,” Eze said. “I’m working my way up to get to the level I want to be. I don’t want to be average.”
Reach Craig Harris at 615-259-8238 and on Twitter @CHTennessean.
Davidson Academy, Offensive Tackle
Height: 6-7 Weight: 280
247Sports composite: Four stars
College plans: Committed to Memphis on Aug. 15