BY DENNIS SILVA II | email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jimmy Hamon’s first impression of David Ugwoegbu came not via the film room or a stat sheet.
It came whenever he checked out Ugwoegbu’s Twitter page not long after he was hired on as head coach at Seven Lakes High in late February of 2018.
“The first thing I noticed is when I looked at his social media, you don’t see what you see with every other kid,” Hamon said. “He didn’t have all 21 offers pinned to his profile. He had a big one there in Alabama, but it was the only one sitting there, and honestly, if you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t know just how national of a recruit he was.”
What Hamon initially saw turned out to be who Ugwoegbu is. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound outside linebacker, a four-star recruit ranked in the top 50 players in the state, is a destructive force on the field. Off it, however, Ugwoegbu is a gentle, understated young man, quick with friendly words and quicker with a smile.
“He was very humble, and he was quiet during the (recruiting) process,” Hamon said. “He wasn’t seeking the attention that a guy with his stature would. He wasn’t looking for followers on social media. He stayed true to his roots.”
Ugwoegbu celebrated signing with Oklahoma on National Signing Day on Wednesday. He wore a nice white polo shirt adorned with the “OU” logo.
He was surrounded by coaches, family, teammates, friends and other admirers, but he didn’t have to look far to remember where he came from.
In attendance was the Hunsucker family, Mike and his wife Kay. It was Mike who introduced the game of football to the Ugwoegbus, David and older brother Bright, when their mother Grace moved the family from Maryland to Katy when David was 5-years-old.
“When we came, we didn’t know what football is,” Grace said. “All we knew was soccer, coming from Nigeria. A great family friend of ours, the Hunsuckers, introduced us to football, and at first, I was, ‘Hell, no! American football is tough. It’s dangerous.’
“But once they tried out, that was it.”
Mike first coached Ugwoegbu in little league basketball. He encouraged him to play football when he saw he how athletic he was.
Ugwoegbu followed willingly. He had seen Bright, who was also coached by Mike, play football, and he wanted to do so as well. He saw Bright—Seven Lakes Class of 2014—get recruited throughout high school and ultimately sign with Oregon State, and he wanted the same opportunity, too.
“Once I saw my brother get recruited, I knew I could, too,” Ugwoegbu said.
Ugwoegbu waited to sign until the February National Signing Day, and not the early period in December, because Bright had signed in February.
“It’s exciting to not have all the pressure anymore,” Ugwoegbu said of signing with Oklahoma. “Not only from other people asking me where I was going, but also on myself, because I really didn’t know where I was going to go. It’s a whole bunch of weight off my shoulders.”
Ugwoegbu averaged four tackles per game, compiling seven for losses, to go with one sack and one fumble caused in eight games for Seven Lakes this past season. It was his first full season playing defense.
Ugwoegbu also played tight end and defensive end during his time at Seven Lakes, and was such an elite physical talent that Auburn had him ranked as its No. 1 prospect at halfback and tight end.
Hamon used Ugwoegbu primarily at outside linebacker last season, but also played him at tight end during the district season.
“He’s a special athlete,” Hamon said. “I knew we’d still utilize him on both sides of the ball, but I wanted to make sure he was playing and developing in the position he was going to play in at the next level.”
Ugwoegbu said he will immediately compete for a starting job at stand-up outside linebacker as a true freshman at Oklahoma, which beat out Texas A&M for his services. He admired Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch’s enthusiasm and high expectations for turning around the Sooners’ defense.
“That’s exactly what he’s going to do,” said Ugwoegbu, who will join fellow Katy ISD rival and four-star defensive end Marcus Stripling, out of Mayde Creek, at Oklahoma.
In the meantime, a legacy as arguably the best football player to come out of Seven Lakes High is complete for Ugwoegbu.
Hamon said he will remember how hard Ugwoegbu played and how much of a joy he was to be around. Ugwoegbu’s smile widens at recalling how he helped lead Seven Lakes back to the postseason this past fall after a three-year hiatus, a memorable season that included the Spartans’ first win ever over Cinco Ranch in a win-or-go-home game that determined who would advance to the playoffs.
Indeed, National Signing Day was a time to reflect on how far Ugwoegbu had come, while setting in motion how much further he still has to go.
“It’s not often you see a young man from little league that makes it this far in football,” Mike said. “The next step is hopefully the next level. If he keeps working hard, playing hard and doing the right thing, he’ll be in good shape.”