Spring Lake Park junior Eji Ejiya does it all on the football field.
A first-team Star Tribune All-Metro selection as a running back last fall, Ejiya rushed for a school-record 1,475 yards on 156 carries and scored 17 touchdowns. He led the team with 92 tackles from his linebacker spot and contributed on special teams.
The Gophers, Wisconsin, North Dakota State and Northern Illinois have inquired about Ejiya. North Dakota offered him a scholarship, hoping to utilize his talents at linebacker.
While humbled by the attention thus far, Ejiya hopes to attract additional offers as he hits the college camp circuit this summer. He spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about the recruiting process, the preparation that makes him a great linebacker and why, despite his potential, he does not specialize in football.
Q: What’s it like knowing you’re wanted by a college program?
A: It’s an amazing feeling. It makes me want to work harder to get a spot. I feel like I’m going in as the underdog because of my size.
Q: How big are you right now?
A: I’m about 6-3, 185 but I need to get heavier to play linebacker. I just need to put on 10 or 15 more pounds and I’ll be good. But I feel like my heart makes up for everything.
Q: For those that have not seen you play, what are the strong suits of your game as a linebacker?
A: I’ve been told that I have great instincts and great feet. I take good angles to the ball and I’m quick to react.
Q: I imagine those instincts start with a lot of time in the film room.
A: Oh, yeah. Even now, I’m watching film on our first game and past films on teams we will play next fall.
Q: Where can you improve as a player?
A: Probably reading my keys more. As you get tired during games, it’s harder to focus on your reads.
Q: What’s on your summer schedule in terms of college camps?
A: I’m going to be attending at least four camps. I’m going to be attending the Gophers one-day camp, the Northern Illinois one-day camp and the Michigan specialty camp that lasts three or four days. The fourth one is an unknown right now.
Q: Do you see yourself as a linebacker or a running back?
A: It’s so hard to decide what I want to do. I’ve been playing running back ever since I was little. But then I started playing defense in high school and I love it so much — the D pride thing.
Q: How are you preparing yourself for the recruiting process still ahead?
A: It’s a weird process because colleges will tell you that they are really interested in you, but in the end they will blow you off. I’m feeling confident, but then again you never know. I’ve learned from all this to keep staying humble. I know God is on my side so hopefully something good will happen in the end.
Q: You plan on playing basketball and running track as a senior. What keeps you from specializing on football?
A: I partake in those other sports because I enjoy it and because they help with football. Playing basketball helps me get quicker feet. Triple jump will help with my vertical. The 400-meter dash helps my stamina and endurance. I can do those things and still lift weights.
DAVID LA VAQUE