Aug. 10, 2000
Standing 5-9 and weighing 185 pounds, Chidi Iwuoma is a defensive force that could cause headaches to offensive coordinators throughout the Pac-10 Conference, as well as all of college football.
Playing fulltime at the corner position, Iwuoma is often times matched up against the number one or two receiver on the opposing side of the ball. To some, this may cause problems, but for Iwuoma, he seems to thrive off the opportunity. He notes that his "ability to make pretty good decisions and knowing when to turn on the juice when necessary" is his best asset in his pursuit to deny the opposition the ball.
In addition to the corner position, Iwuoma finds time and energy to switch sides of the ball to return kicks. After only three punt returns during the 1999 season, Iwuoma had amassed an average of 15.3 yards-per punt return, good enough for 15th in the nation. He expects to take over the fulltime duties this season as he is being asked to replace Deltha O'Neal who was the return specialist a year ago.
Iwuoma is the type of player that has the ability to lead by example on the field, but it is his ability to be more of a vocal leader that increases his importance as a member of the Cal football program. "This year, I am playing the role as a leader and inspiration for the younger players, not just for the secondary, but for the whole team," said Iwuoma. "The coaches want me to step up and be more vocal, and I am ready to do that. I am ready in my senior season to do that, not just on the field, but anyway possible."
Fans may know Iwuoma best for his on-field performance, however it may be his off-the-field leadership and activities that may be his greatest asset for the Cal community. Iwuoma participates in tutoring and is a member of a community service fraternity when he is away from the field.
"There is a lot more to college life than just football, it could come and go anytime, he said. "During my years at Cal, I wanted to get the most out of my collegiate experience. My other activities were a bonus to make sure that I enjoyed my college career."
As a senior and a leader on and off the field, Iwuoma has made it a goal to prove the preseason Pac-10 polls wrong. The Bears are slated to finish ninth in the conference, and this obviously does not sit well with Iwuoma, or the rest of the team.
"Those ratings just set my goals even higher," Iwuoma said, "I pretty much just laugh at those ratings because I know that we are going to do much better, and as long as we play the way we can, we'll finish much higher in the Pac 10."
In order to help the team, Iwuoma knows that he needs to stay healthy and take better care of his body, which hopefully will improve his interception rate and continue his physical play, both of which top his list of personal goals.
Personal goals are one thing, but team goals are a completely different story. Having not made a bowl appearance since his redshirt year in 1996 when the Bears lost to Navy in the Aloha Bowl, Iwuoma wants to end his collegiate career by going to a major bowl: "I want our team to play together as an entire unit...that is the only way we are going to get to a bowl game and since this is my last one, I want to go to a major bowl game," he said. "We know that we have to work for it, so a lot of guys are a lot more focused on working towards that goal and that was apparent during spring ball and during the summer...the guys are really more goal oriented towards getting to that bowl game."
Chidi Iwuoma knows what has to get done in order to meet his goals and expectations for the season, and he hopes that his teammates can follow his lead and achieve their goal of an invitation to the postseason.