They call him “Dozie.”
Could have been “Chi” or even “Easy,” but “Dozie” works fine when your real name is Chidoziem Ezemma.
It’s not really the kind of name you hear often here in the land of the Hatfields and McCoys, but then again he’s not exactly the kind of guy you find here, either.
His roots are in Nigeria, his childhood spent in the Bronx and Rockland County, N.Y., which is where he learned he was a pretty good football player, good enough, he thought, to earn a scholarship, but all kinds of twists worked against him there.
So the guy they call “Dozie,” the one with the mile-wide smile and maybe the most athletic body on the West Virginia football team, is trying to prove himself here.
He’s a walk-on in his second season, but don’t hold that against him any more than you can hold the slim 200-pound body he brought to Morgantown with him as a freshman that he has molded into 228 pounds today en route to what will probably wind up at 240.
Just getting here was a battle, which makes him exactly the kind of kid WVU has thrived on over the years, a player who had raw skill and potential but had somehow slipped beneath the recruiting radar.
His parents had married in Nigeria and migrated to the United States.
“When you’re back in Nigeria, everyone wants to come to the USA so they can make it for themselves,” said Ezemma, who has four brothers and sisters. “The USA is a place of opportunity. For my parents it was a big leap. They came here for college and from what I know, they didn’t have much money. My dad used to drive a taxi for money.”
They were poor but carried big dreams for themselves and their children.
“What they really preached to us was school, school, school. I knew I had a dream, so I said I was going to go after it,” he said.
His mother graduated from Long Island University and became a registered nurse; his father went to Touro College and became a professor in computers. “Dozie” is studying computer engineering at WVU.
He had been a wide receiver at Ramapo High in Spring Valley, N.Y., and drawn some interest, most notably from Syracuse, but for his senior year he was moved to defensive end.
“It messed up my recruiting,” he said. That Syracuse also changed its coaching staff that season didn’t help, either.
There was other interest, including UConn, but it was hardly feverish and in the end he wound up at the University of New Haven, a Division II school.
He played pretty well, saying, “I was kind of like the Bruce Irvin of Division II,” but he wasn’t happy, being a Division I player caught up in a Division II program.
“I went through a lot of depression,” he said. “You go through a Division II football game and do a good job and the next day you have guys on the team talking about how Ohio State is doing. It’s like nobody cares. Alumni, at most. But go to the coaches and they’re talking about how (Florida State) is doing.”
So he looked around and there was a moment when ... well, this is how he put it:
“I almost went to Pitt,” he said. “That’s funny, right?”
Well, it used to be, back in the Big East days.
WVU snared him as a walk-on and that meant he was in for some of the toughest times of his life.
“They definitely test you more than other athletes. You have to be mentally strong, especially. They try to break you, but trust in God and you can make it,” he said.
Instead of breaking him, he became even more determined. He put on the muscle, added what was necessary to his game and now is hoping the coaches discover just who he is.
“This year the goals are limitless because I’m unknown. They have no idea who I am besides the spring game, and even then they don’t know,” he said. “My goal is to get my name out there. I want them to know I’m playing football and have Christ in me.”
If all goes his way, they’ll stop calling him “Dozie” and instead say he’s a “doozy.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.
They call him “Dozie.”
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