Coming out of high school, Nwabuisi was in high athletic standing. In his senior year of high school, he was offensively sound. He was a fullback putting up the numbers of a running back. Nwabuisi amassed 1,400 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns – rushing and receiving. He also played linebacker, totaling 51 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble.
But in 2008, when he committed to Northwestern, his position changed to full-time linebacker. He also redshirted that season.
In his first three seasons, Nwabuisi notched 35 tackles and two forced fumbles. However, in his junior campaign, he finally received the opportunity to shine.
In what was a breakout year, Nwabuisi finished third on the team in tackles (84), with 8.5 tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles.
For the season he had, this year, Nwabuisi is one of the top 51 linebackers to be named on the Butkus Award Watch List.
His performance against No. 9 Nebraska on the road likely garnered the attention of voters as he tallied nine tackles, two tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. He helped deliver an upset for Northwestern as they won 28-25 after coming in as 17-point underdogs. Team Wildcat gave him the distinction of defensive player of the week for his display.
Considering his status, he’s likely to be a defensive captain for this year (if he isn’t already).
In what seemed like a reach, Nwabuisi is on the radar for possibly being drafted in the NFL Draft. He just needs to repeat or better his numbers from last season. If things go as planned, he could have a solid career like current Bears LB Nick Roach or retired Texan LB Kevin Bentley, who both attended Northwestern.
Northwestern’s defense didn’t have many bright spots last season, but he was one of them. His importance is justified in a banner hanging outside of Ryan Field.
I’m sure Nwabuisi and Co. recognize that expectations for the Wildcats are as optimistic as ever. If they are to recapture the glory from 2008, the Wildcat defense must play infinitely better. The team’s defense plays with a bend-don’t-break style. It hasn’t been working since ’08 as their season record has declined.
In short, Northwestern has reached four straight bowl games; I don’t foresee that being the goal any longer. What has been the thorn for the Wildcats is that they’ve lost nine straight bowl games -they haven’t won one since 1948.
A player like Nwabuisi has this in the back of his mind. Truth be told, the players on this team want to be ones that end it. If defense wins championships, then defense can win one bowl game. Therefore, it’ll help if Nwabuisi ascends his game to another level. He’s a leader, and he’ll have to lead by example. If underclassmen see his play on the field, it will be motivation for the rest to rise to the occasion. Nwabuisi’s rub-off effect can certainly be contagious for the better.
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