PULLMAN — Washington State safety Chima Nwachukwu is a four-year starter, a two-time member of the Pac-10 All-Academic first team, a reigning second-team Academic All-American.
All that, and Chima Nwachukwu the football player can’t hold a candle to Chima Nwachukwu the human being.
“He’s one of those guys, if he became president of the United States, you wouldn’t be shocked,” WSU co-defensive coordinator Chris Ball said. “He’s just that type of kid.”
“Chima’s a very smart individual,” head coach Paul Wulff said. “He’s very aware of the surroundings, the world issues.
“That’s just the way he’s wired. He’s going to be in public service in some capacity.”
Washington State at SMU, 12:30 p.m. Saturday
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Indeed, Chima Nwachukwu (CHEE-muh WATCH-uh-koo) plans to become a federal prosecutor and does not rule out going into politics some day. He hopes to be accepted into Stanford Law School after he takes a year off to study for his entrance exams once he finishes work on a political science degree at Washington State in May.
“I’ve always wanted to litigate in an open court room,” Nwachukwu said.
The possibilities seem endless for a young man with a 3.87 grade point average and, as near as he can recall, nothing but A’s since he was a sophomore.
“He’s a real smart person,” fellow safety Tyree Toomer said. “He has a lot to handle academically.
“I give him a lot of credit. I don’t know how he does it. I wouldn’t be able to manage my time like he does.”
Nwachukwu, the son of Nigerian immigrants who graduated from U.S. colleges (Chima lived with relatives in Nigeria for two years as a youth), was one of 30 players on the preseason watch list for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award. It is presented annually to a college football senior who excels on and off the field.
Nwachukwu has served as president of the WSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, represented Washington State at student-athlete conferences, organized WSU’s aid program for Haiti earthquake victims and participated in the Cougars’ reading program for elementary school students.
“You hear so much about bad stuff the (college) football players do,” Nwachukwu said. “Some of my teammates used to get into trouble, and it would put a bad face on our program.
“There’s nice guys on our team. Good guys, they’re all over in the NCAA. You hardly every hear about it, so I wanted to get involved and help out in the community and just be an example. Use the position you have to help out in the community. I love working with kids.”
Nwachukwu said he has loved just about everything connected with his Washington State experience, even though the Cougars have won only nine games in his four seasons.
Nwachukwu was a Freshman All-American in 2007, when he started every game at cornerback on a 5-7 team before moving to safety the following year. Nwachukwu’s first scholarship offer came from Southern Methodist, located a long kickoff from his high school (Allen) in suburban Dallas, and he hopes to overcome a neck injury suffered this week in practice so he can play Saturday at SMU.
“With football, it’s been a great character building experience,” Nwachukwu said. “You learn about yourself when times are down … and academics and my social life, it’s been amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
That may be true now, but Nwachukwu said he considered transferring after coach Bill Doba and most of Doba’s assistants were let go following the 2007 season. Nwachukwu was not enamored with the new coaching staff at first, and vice versa.
“I had to learn to trust them, and they had to learn to trust me,” Nwachukwu said.
Ball, who coaches WSU’s safeties, is one man who has definitely earned Nwachukwu’s trust and admiration.
“He’s had a real big influence on my life,” Nwachukwu said. “He’s a great position coach. I love him.”
The respect is mutual, Ball said.
“If your son grew up to be like Chima,” Ball said, “you’d be pretty proud.”