Ezeh embraces helping others grow as athletes

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:48 PM

Obi Ezeh was doing his best to earn his spot on a National Football League roster, but a lingering back injury kept him from performing to his full potential.

Instead, the former Grand Rapids Catholic Central and University of Michigan star decided to start helping out young up-and-coming athletes.

He joined the football coaching staff at Forest Hills Central, and at the same time took over their sports and conditioning program.

He's also working on his masters degree at Aquinas College, and that's where he met Grand Haven's Matthew Gagnon.

Gagnon runs College Prep Soccer in Grand Haven, and made a pitch to Ezeh, who was more than happy to come out on Saturday and run a strength and conditioning clinic for more than a dozen local teens.

"I ran into Matt at the athletic facility over there at Aquinas where I play basketball sometimes," Ezeh said. "He wanted me to come run a little session on the beach, and I'm a big fan of working at the beach, in the sand. It really helps to strengthen hamstrings and helps ankle stability.

"I tried to throw a little bit of everything in there. I love dynamic stretching, things like that. And a lot of those kids that age don't know how to run as effectively as they should. We that, some core stuff, some plyometrics, we worked on getting those kids to be as explosive as they can be. That pays dividends in any sport."

Ezeh is no stranger to Grand Haven. During his days at Catholic Central, several of his friends had cottages on the Lakeshore. Coming to Grand Haven was a much closer trip to his family's home in Nigeria.

"It was fun roaming the old stomping grounds, but I didn't get a chance to get a Pronto Pup or a Butches' Beach Burrito," he said with a laugh. "A lot of kids in my class had cottages out there, so it was a good experience to get out to the beach."

Ezeh joined the Michigan Wolverines under coach Lloyd Carr. His first game as a redshirt freshman was against Appalachian State — one of the most notorious losses in the history of Michigan football.

"That was the first time I played linebacker, and they yanked me after the first series," Ezeh said. "It's just crazy, playing in the Big House for the first time, seeing your picture on that big screen, more than 110,000 fans jumping, screaming, going crazy."

While losing to Appalachian State, and losing a lot under coach Rich Rodriguez, were tough to swallow, Ezeh has plenty of fond memories of his days wearing the winged helmet. His favorite is a trip to East Lansing in 2007 and scoring a 28-24 win.

"Coming from Grand Rapids Catholic Central, a lot of my friends went to Michigan State, were Michigan State fans, so I loved going to East Lansing and beating Sparty.

"The triple overtime win against Illinois was a good one, and the Capital One bowl was one of my favorites, playing against Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin, all those guys."

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