By William Renken,
There will be no greater “fail” than to hear NFL commentators and analysts try to correctly pronounce Ikponmwosa Igbinosun’s name.
Spell checks instantly reject every mention of his name with no suggestion offered. Just a cruel red dotted underline for the one of the rookies trying to make a spot for himself on Dick LeBeau’s highly regarded Steeler defense. Good thing he is referred to as ‘Ike’ by his teammates and coaches.
A first year defensive end out of Southern Connecticut State (go Owls, anyone?), Igbinosun was signed as an undrafted free agent by Pittsburgh on April 30 in an ongoing attempt to bring in younger faces to a defense already down four starters from the defensive side last year.
Igbinosun will be competing for the opening created by Aaron Smith’s departure at defensive end, and Pittsburgh’s incarnation of the Nigerian Nightmare has plenty of physical prowess to make his mark.
Igbinosun stands 6’2″ and weighs 288 pounds. He gets his large frame moving quickly, as he demonstrated at the combine, running an impressive 4.94 in his 40-yard dash. Granted, the first defensive end taken in the 2012 draft (Bruce Irvin, Seattle) ran a 4.50, but he was also forty pounds lighter. The fact of the matter is Igbinosun can get himself off the line in a hurry.
During his senior season for the Owls, Igbinosun racked up 58 tackles (12 of them for a loss) along with seven sacks. But beyond what he can do on the ground is what he can do off of it. His vertical leap was measured at an astounding 38″, which is actually on par with Kobe Bryant and well ahead of most in the 2012 NFL draft (Irvin’s leap was only 33.5″)—certainly an asset for tipping passes and blocking field goals.
Although Igbinosun was born in the U.S., his Nigerian descent comes from two parents heavily immersed in the athletics of their native country.
Mercy, his mother, was a long distance runner, while Solomon, his father, was a soccer player. Clearly the athletic influence was passed down to their son, as his impressive skill set won over the Steelers after the draft this year.
His name literally means “grace from god,” and judging by support given to him by the veterans of the Steelers’ defensive line, he might be a gift from god once the season gets underway. Igbinosun’s upside is continued by the fact he is only 21 years old and the second youngest player on the team.
Igbinosun’s youth gives him plenty of time to develop, and if he stays healthy, he could just be the answer to the outcries for the Steelers to get younger with its personnel.
It might only be June, but with all things considered, the Steelers might have just scored a major coup with Igbinosun, even if no one can pronounce his name. Maybe quarterbacks will get plenty of practice when they see the back of his jersey as he walks away from a third down sack. Time will only tell.