Being first is meaningful to Odenigbo
Tito Odenigbo sees plenty of scarlet and gray.
Practically every Friday at Centerville (Ohio) High School, his fellow students don the colors of Ohio State.
The defensive lineman who verbally committed to Illinois on Monday said a few might throw on the maize and blue of Michigan.
Even fewer, however, sport the orange and blue Illini colors. With the exception of Odenigbo.
“I’m pretty much the only one wearing Illinois colors,” the gregarious Odenigbo said with a laugh. “I’ve been a big fan of Illinois since I was little.”
Indeed he has. Odenigbo was born in Decatur and his father graduated from Illinois before the family moved to Ohio when he was in first grade.
“We were all pretty upset when we moved to Ohio,” Odenigbo said of he and his two other sibling’s reaction. “But I still have lots of family in the area.”
Odenigbo said he plans to major in business, another selling point in him choosing Illinois, he said, and despite his older brother, Ifeadi filling a linebacker spot at Northwestern, didn’t hesitate on Illinois once his preferred school offered.
Illinois recruiting coordinator Alex Golesh was the lead recruiter on Odenigbo.
“He didn’t have to pitch that much to me,” Odenigbo said. “He’s a great recruiter, but when Illinois offered me, that’s what pretty much sealed it for me."
Odenigbo and Centerville missed the Ohio state playoffs last season for the first time in five years.
Odenigbo hopes his contributions next season on the defensive line make up for last season’s 6-4 record that left them on the outside looking in when it comes to the state playoffs.
“My goal this season is our D-line to be the best in state,” Odenigbo said. “I think we can do it. It’s the last year I’ll be playing at Centerville, and they’ve done so much for me with football.”
Odenigbo’s statistics from last season — 25 tackles, four sacks — didn’t overwhelm, but he said his production isn’t just based on the numbers he puts up.
“I’m probably going to be double-teame more and have a focus on me from other teams, but the rest of my D-line will be good enough, so I might not have that good of a stat season,” he said. “I’ll be helping my teammates make tackles and plug up holes.”
Primarily used as a defensive end so far at Centerville, he could see time at a defensive tackle next season, which is the position Odenigbo might find himself playing at Illinois.
And when Odenigbo committed Monday night, he didn’t realize he would become the first commit in the Class of 2014 for Illinois.
“I thought they were going to be other guys already,” he said. “It didn’t mean much to me at first, but then I started thinking about it and was like, ‘Wow, I’m the first guy in my class that said they’re going to play at Illinois.’ That’s a huge deal. It means a lot to me, and I’m really grateful.”