Egu finds a home with the Yale Bulldogs.
Yale Bulldogs’ Victor Egu chases the quarterback in a recent game.(Photo courtesy of Yale Athletics)
(C+P) — It’s not a leap to describe Victor Egu’s first 20 years of his life as the American dream.
His journey includes trips from Nigeria to California, and now he is at one of the most prestigious universities in the world. Egu, a sophomore defensive end for the Yale football team, is molding his craft while getting an elite education with the hopes that he may appear at the next level.
Born in Nigeria, Egu moved to the states at five years old with his mom and two older siblings. His father was the first to emigrate, working for three years to accrue the necessary funds to transport the rest of the family to northern California.
“It was definitely a culture shock; it was very different,” Egu said. “Nigeria where I’m from is very laid back and it’s a complete different culture. It took a little time to get used to everything in America.”
Egu didn’t begin playing football until his freshman year of high school. Looking up to his brother Ken — who played at a young age and was a senior at De La Salle Academy in Concord at the time — Egu gave the sport a shot in tryouts and eventually evolved into a coveted three-star (per Rivals) prospect. Ken Egu committed to Washington and spent two seasons there before transferring to Duquesne.
“I always looked up to my brother, and looked up to (former Baltimore Ravens linebacker) Ray Lewis,” Egu said. “So I thought it was good to try it out in high school and never looked back.”
De La Salle, an all-male school with about 1,100 enrollment, is consistently ranked nationally and Egu (42 tackles, seven sacks) helped lead the Spartans to a 12-0 season and a national championship as a senior.
Lacking experience initially, the intensity of California Prep football prepared Egu for the next level.
“It taught me how to work hard; push yourself every day and no matter how difficult it gets better at some point,” Egu said.
Egu was originally committed to Cal, but Bears head coach Jeff Tedford was fired soon after and a new defensive system was installed that didn’t fit Egu’s skill set. The scheme change, along with the opportunity for immediate playing time, made Yale a realistic option.
“For us, we go after the best recruits in the country; there’s that one percent that also have the academics to get into Yale,” said Yale head coach Tony Reno, who added that the Bulldogs had monitored Egu since his junior season. “He was a complete recruit in all sense of the word.”
A persistent effort by the Bulldogs didn’t hurt, either.
“The Yale coaching staff; they came to my house about five times and I really thought about it,” Egu recalled. “To come all the way from Connecticut to California isn’t an easy thing like I know now. That showed me that they truly wanted me and there was no getting by it. This was the best choice I could make.”
Despite offers from Washington, Oregon and Notre Dame, Egu decided to call New Haven home.
It didn’t take Egu long to make the transition from high school to college life, aside from the change in climate.
“It was more of a weather shock,” Egu joked. “Connecticut is humid and hot; and the snow. I never saw snow in my life; that was definitely a shock last year. It took me a little bit (to adjust), but not too long because how family-orientated a place Yale is.”
On the field, Egu was a hit as a true freshman. He had 26 tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles in limited action. Now full time at defensive end in Yale’s 4-3 scheme, a big season is likely.
“He’s got a ton of potential,” Reno said. “He’s one of those guys that’s very athletic, very strong and he wants to be good.”
Egu, who stands 6-foot-3, bulked up to 245 pounds in the offseason to help meet the demands of battling in the trenches on an every-down basis.
“Definitely just experience is the biggest thing,” Egu said. “Just getting used to the speed of the game, and also the strength and size building my body up more. And also just confidence I guess; (you) can’t play if you’re not confident out there.”
Egu also hopes to add his name to the growing list of players with Nigerian heritage currently plying his trade in the league.
“I definitely think about that, guys like Brian Orakpo and Osi Umenora,” Egu said. “I keep track of those guys and I definitely see what they’re doing on and off the field so I can better myself as a player and a person.”
While Egu has the potential to reach the NFL, he is solely focused on improving the Bulldogs. Yale went 5-5 a year ago and was selected by the coaches to place fifth again this season in the Ivy League.
“I’ve definitely thought about (the NFL),” Egu said. “But as of right now I need to get better and better and help my team here.”
Reno believes he has NFL potential.
“He’s only a sophomore; he’s young,” Reno said. “He had a lot of success as a freshman; he’s still young to the college game. “Where you’re going to see in two years is going to be unrecognizable to where he is now.”
Yale opens the season Sept. 20 at home against Leigh.