Ukiomogbe’s football journey to continue at McMaster
Last fall, Denis Morris football coach Andy Cecchini told Michael Ukiomogbe he had the potential to be a very good Ontario University Athletics athlete.
Other Niagara Catholic Athletic Association teams must have thought so as well as the 6-foot-5, 240 pound defensive end faced a constant barrage of double teams throughout the season.
“I thought maybe I should give it a try and see where it goes,” 17-year-old Thorold resident said.
This spring and summer, he is playing travel ball for the first time ever with the Niagara Spears varsity team and that turned out to be a wise decision. At the start of a season, an OUA coach expressed interest in him and then after a Spears road game in Cambridge, someone told him that McMaster coach (Chris) Hopkins wanted to talk to him.
“I went over and talked to him and he said we love the way you play and we want you to come for a visit.”
Ukiomogbe took McMaster’s offensive line coach up on his offer and quickly decided the Hamilton university would be a great spot to play football.
“The whole place was phenomenal and I just thought yes.”
McMaster is looking for the NCAA football all-star to play defensive end for the Marauders. Last weekend, he got a taste of what he could expect when he took part in an OTA (organized team activities) weekend.
“They showed us what training camp would look like and not only how you present yourself but how you are going to have to play so you can compete at the next level,” he said. “It is much different.”
The OTA weekend was an eye-opener for Ukiomogbe, who was also a Top 10 Niagara basketball all-star this past season.
“The biggest things I took out of it is how much faster paced it is. I am used to being the biggest guy on the field and it’s not going to be like that. People are tougher, stronger, better and you always have to compete because there is always someone trying to get your position.”
Ukiomogbe took the opportunity to pick the brains of some of the veterans who were taking part in the OTA weekend.
“They told me that to me able to play or get on the field at all, you have to know the playbook, you have to know what you are doing and the most important thing is to get on special teams,” he said. “I am going to come in, compete as hard as I can, play as hard as I can and do my best.”
He only received a copy of the playbook this past weekend and is going to take the rest of the summer to get familiar with it.
“I am kind of behind already so the last two days I have had my nose in it. In high school, you know the playbook because the concepts aren’t that complicated. At the next level, it is way harder. The whole D-line is synchronized and if one person messes up the whole play doesn’t work.”
Ukiomogbe has a friendly, easy-going personality but that persona gets left on the sidelines in football.
“It doesn’t fully go away because I am still me at the end of the day but when it is time to play it’s time to play. You don’t really have the opportunity to make friends on the football field. You are always hitting everybody.”
He loves football.
“I like everything from the camaraderie to playing on the field and giving your best effort. I love competing and everything I do is about that. I like the physical aspect and as a football team you are like a brotherhood.”
Ukiomogbe also played tight end for Denis Morris but his positional preference was clear.
“I always liked defence more because on offence you have be at the same tempo as everyone. On defence, you still do everything with everyone but you have to get to the ball and I like tackling.”
He was born in Nigeria and his family came to Canada when he was 10.
“When I first started high school in Burlington (Assumption), I didn’t take an interest in football. I wanted to play volleyball instead but after the coach told me I would be good on the field I thought why not?”