Nakas Onyeka was not only one of the top linebackers in the OUA in 2016, he was one of the most productive players on one of the nation’s top defences. But Onyeka’s path to the CFL and the Toronto Argonauts has not always been an easy one.
Onyeka started his football career in the 11th grade, widely disregarded by many U SPORTS programs, except for one. Michael Faulds and his new staff were looking to rebuild the Laurier Golden Hawks men’s football team to what they were just eight season before, Vanier Cup champions. Nakas Onyeka was a member of the first recruiting class that Michael Faulds brought to Wilfrid Laurier University in 2013, the recruiting class that would become Yates Cup champions just four seasons later.
“I can tell you quite confidently that if Nakas Onyeka weren’t on our team, we wouldn’t have a Yates Cup championship” said by Laurier Golden Hawks recruiting & special teams coordinator Dwayne Cameron when asked about the roll that Nakas Onyeka played in the Laurier Golden Hawks going 1-7 in his rookie campaign back in 2013, to 7-1 and Yates Cup champions in his fourth season in 2016.
Onyeka was named the OUA stand-up defensive player of the year in 2016, as well a first team OUA All-Star and a first team U SPORTS All-Canadian for his stellar 2016 campaign. Nakas was also a finalist for the U SPORTS Presidents Trophy award given to the nation’s top stand-up defensive player of the year. In 2016 Onyeka fell short to the Canada West representative, DJ Lalama of the University of Manitoba for the national Presidents Trophy award as the country’s best stand-up defender.
“I can’t take credit and tell you that I knew he was going to become what he is, that would be a lie” added Cameron on Nakas Onyeka’s skills as a football player. “I worked my way through the ranks and I hope that I can bring that to the CFL” said Onyeka when asked about the opportunity to play for the Toronto Argonauts. Onyeka was often disregarded because of his size. . “Nakas was an under sized linebacker, even in high school” said Coach Dwayne Cameron “But the things that you could see where the instincts” added the Laurier Golden Hawks recruiting coordinator.
While the accolades seem to consistently find the Brampton, Ontario native, it hasn’t been an easy path to the professional ranks. “It’s not when your drafted, it’s where your drafted and I think that Toronto is going to present the best opportunity for me” Said Onyeka, who was taken in the 5th round at 36th overall. In the initial CFL Scouting Bureau rankings, Onyeka was ranked at 18.
“You can’t control when and where you get drafted, but the work ethic and the determination you put forward is what I’m going to try to bring to the professional game” said Onyeka who has had to put in the work to get to where he is. “He doesn’t have what you look for from a measurable stand point, and that’s the reason he continues to get overlooked. But he continues to prove people wrong over and over and over again” said Cameron when he was asked if Onyeka carries a chip on his shoulder for getting overlooked.
“All the adversity I did face made me become the player and the man I am today” said Onyeka when he was asked about making the right decision on playing University football for the Laurier Golden Hawks.
Nakas may not be the only Onyeka that we see playing in the CFL in the near future. Nakas’s cousins, Godfrey and Kene Onyeka are both widely regarded OUA and U SPORTS players. Godfrey, a corner who plays for the Laurier Golden Hawks, while Kene is a DE/LB who suits up for the Carleton Ravens. “They shouldn’t have any trouble adjusting to the game” said Nakas about his family members. “I feel like they have all the talent in the world and they are hard workers, and they’ve proven that” added Nakas on his cousins who are both eligible for the 2018 CFL Draft.
The Onyeka football line doesn’t end there though. Nakas’ younger brother Kosi, a 5’10” 175lbs DB who has committed to the University of Guelph also has his sites set on playing professional football “My advice would be to keep his head on the goal, and do whatever it takes to reach that goal”.
Onyeka will look to continue to prove people wrong, now at the CFL level. The next Argonauts preseason game, which will give Nakas Onyeka his final chance to make the professional club will come on Friday June 16, 2017 against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Kickoff will be at 7:30 at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton and will be streamed on ticats.ca.
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