Osita and Ikem Ekwonu are two of the many national recruits hoping to lead the Chargers to the top
In some ways, Providence Day seniors Osita and Ikem Ekwonu are very similar to most sets of brothers.
They fight mainly because Osita will sometimes go into Ikem’s room when he’s not invited, but Ikem isn’t innocent either and knows the right buttons to push to get his brother riled up.
“We get along on the field and at school, but at home it’s a different story I think,” Osita said. “I think it’s normal stuff, but he knows how to get me going and so do I to him.”
Charger coach Adam Hastings says although Osita is a little more serious and Ikem, who is nicknamed Ikey and goes by the Twitter handle @BigIck91, is a little more jovial.
But he can see the similarities, too.
“Once you get to know them, it’s funny because as different as they are, they are so similar and both of them act like the same person almost, but in a weird way,” Hastings said. “Osita is very quiet and serious before you get to know him, but in the locker room, you hear him all the time joking around or just having fun. The one big thing with him this year that I’m very proud of is he has become much more of an outspoken leader than in the past. Ikey is the extrovert. He always has a smile on his face and is always joking around. That’s a little more him, but he can also get very serious very fast.”
Serious – as in both talent and stature – is the only word to describe how the brothers are when they step on the football field.
Osita is a star at linebacker, but his athleticism and chiseled physique allow him to double as a running back that pairs nicely with Nickel Fields, a star-in-the-making in his own right who gained over 1,000 rushing yards as a freshman.
Last year, Ikem, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound offensive tackle who plays a little on defense, recorded 20 tackles and 4.5 sacks, but mostly protected quarterback Cody Cater and opened holes for the Charger run game, which is a big help to his brother.
Osita, who is 6-foot-2, and 220 pounds, took advantage of the great blocking and averaged eight yards per carry, scored 13 touchdowns and ran for nearly 500 yards. As an inside linebacker, he recorded 73 tackles and a pair of sacks roaming the middle of the Charger defense.
“Osita is big, fast, moves side-to-side well and he’s become a much better pass catcher for us out of the backfield,” Hastings said. “He provides us another element with Nickel, who is a little more of an open-field runner. They end up being two very different from each other and that helps us a lot.”
Osita was an honorable mention selection on the all-state team last season. This year, he’s expecting more.
“One of my personal goals is to be first-team all-state this year,” he said. “I know last year I was on the watch list. I guess that’s an accomplishment, but I’m not satisfied with that accomplishment.”
The same can be said for the Ekwonu’s recruiting trail and their input on how the Charger season will go after they reached the NCISAA Division III title game, where they lost to Charlotte Christian.
Both brothers started out with a few offers here and there last year, but the volume wasn’t there at all. And Osita and Ikem, along with their coach, thought they could probably play at a higher level than the initial offers that were trickling in.
“At first it was a little frustrating for both of them,” Hastings said. “I thought both of them were very talented, very good student-athletes and very good kids. So it was a little frustrating at first because they weren’t getting the traction that they ended up getting in the very beginning. But both of those guys stayed positive and never let it bother them that much, so it was fun to see it start rolling in a little bit and to see that happen for them.”
Ikem ended up with at least 15 offers including Syracuse, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland, but has committed to N.C. State. He ended up as a three-star prospect ranked as the No. 30 recruit in the state and as the No. 29-ranked guard in the country by 247Sports.com.
Osita is a four-star recruit who committed to Notre Dame this summer. He’s ranked as North Carolina’s fourth-best overall prospect, within the top 190 nationally and as the No. 7 inside linebacker in the country. With that recognition, he ended up with over 24 offers and chose the Irish over other nationally acclaimed programs such as Michigan, Alabama, Ohio State, Auburn and Florida.
“That was a fun process I think for both of us,” Ikem said. “Once it got going it was pretty intense for me and Osita.”
They aren’t the only Chargers who are going through the recruiting process. Cater, Fields, receiver Porter Rooks, defensive end Jacolbe Cowan, Florida commit Kedrick Bingley-Jones and others who are highly touted in their own right.
“I’m really excited about the potential of this team, and I think we can go really far together,” Ikem said.
That’s the plan for the Chargers. To get to the top, they know they have to knock off Charlotte Christian, a team that has beat them 10 consecutive times dating back to 2012 and scored 99 points on this Charger defense in two meetings last year.
The talent is certainly there this season for the Chargers, but Hastings and his team are taking a patient approach.
“We really try to focus on just week to week” Hastings said. “We don’t talk about the state championship, the conference championship. We don’t talk about Charlotte Latin, Charlotte Christian or County Day and it’s not because we don’t respect them, but that’s just not in our vocabulary. We talk about winning Week 1 and winning that. When that’s over we can talk about Week 2.
“That helps us not get caught up looking past somebody or thinking about goals that others have set for use because of the players that we have.”
Ikem and Osita are happy to be two of the best players on a star-studded roster, but are not satisfied with all they’ve accomplished yet.
“We definitely have a lot of potential with this team, but we have to take it day by day and work on our craft to get better every day,” Osita said. “If we do that, we will be where we want to be.”