“Even though I had a great season last year, I think it’s going to be better as a team this year,” Nwoke said. “Everybody’s going to want to make plays. It should be a good family type atmosphere.”
The question was to look back at his breakout 2011 season. The answer contained just two “I”s.
Getting him to address his personal successes is similar to asking someone to make a trip to the dentist. Problem is, Nwoke’s young career has left people with plenty to talk about.
The 6-foot, 213 pound running back burst onto the scene with 1,130 yards (No. 10 in Ram history), nine touchdowns and a yard-per-rush average of 5.7, the highest mark in 14 years at CSU. All in only his second season.
At ThunderRidge High School, in Highlands Ranch, he amassed 3,758 yards and 57 touchdowns in three years, garnering interest from schools like Stanford,Texas A&M and Boise State.
In the end Nwoke chose to make CSU his home for the next four years. He was asked to sacrifice his personal goals for the betterment of the team, and sit out his true freshman year with a redshirt.
In his typical fashion, Nwoke put the team ahead of himself.
“Coming in as a freshman out of high school, you want to play right away, but in the end that was a benefit because I got bigger, stronger, learned the plays and got more hungry for the game,” he said. “When I came out there my redshirt freshman year I was determined to start. I think it motivates and drives people when you redshirt because you want to play so bad. It helped me in a big way and I’m happy for that.”
Nwoke’s redshirt freshman season showed the Ram faithful glimpses of what he could be. In eight games Nwoke ran for 357 yards, eighth most for a CSU freshman in team history. He earned academic all-conference honors and a reputation among his teammates as the definition of dedication.
“Chris is definitely driven to be the best person that he can possibly be. If it’s between icin’ 18 times a day, or stimmin’, or watching film all day long, all the way down to gettin’ into the lifts 30 minutes before we start liftin’,” said CSU linebacker and Nwoke’s roommate Davis Burl. “He pretty much does live (at the football facilities). During the offseason he was probably here more than he was at home.”
After exploding in 2011, the recognition rained down on him. Nwoke was named second team all-conference and was voted the team’s MVP, breaking several CSU records along the way.
Still, Nwoke could not talk about himself.
“(Recognition) comes with success, obviously I didn’t do it alone, I think that’s the key factor. I did not do this alone. It was so much of my lineman, my team, everybody worked together. The accolades come as a team award. So if I get an award, it’s for my lineman, my wide receivers, the whole team because we all did it together.”
When he isn’t busy making a name for himself, or his team, on the field, he’s offering his services off it. Nwoke routinely volunteers for various community service projects around Fort Collins.
New football coach Jim McElwain took notice of Nwoke’s selflessness immediately.
“We’ve always said from the start, Chris has really set himself apart from a lot of guys,” McElwain said. “Not only the importance he puts into the classroom, but his community service and the way, obviously, he practices.”
It’s his humble demeanor that makes him unique.
“He definitely treats people with respect,” Burl said. “He doesn’t look down on anybody, even though he had the season that he did last year. No one likes a cocky guy, and he’s definitely not cocky. It’s very appreciated.”
It’s not surprising that a guy who doesn’t like talking about himself won’t consider a potential NFL career. Not yet.
“(An NFL career has) always been wandering (in my mind), but there’s too many unchecked boxes to say so yet,” he said. “We’re here to be successful and win games. If we do that, all that stuff will come together by itself.”
So go ahead. Try asking Nwoke about himself.
Sports Editor Cris Tiller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.