"They came out to Blinn to check me out and offered me for December because they didn't know I was eligible," said Nnabuife. "Afterwards, I got in contact with Coach Thompson and let him know I was a full qualifier so he said he'd try and get me out to Cal for the fall. He had to check and see if they had a scholarship available for this season and when he confirmed they did, they had me out for a visit immediately and I visited Tuesday and liked what I saw. The coaches were cool, they campus was nice, their academics and athletics are great so I decided to commit.
“It happened real fast but everything worked out well. I talked to all the coaches. They're all cool and down-to earth. I talked to a lot of the players when they were working out, too. They all seemed cool, too. I couldn't find a negative about Cal. The only thing that could be considered a negative was that it's so far from home but that's part of growing up.
"This was my first time in California. It was nice. We went out to San Francisco and saw the views and went out for dinner and had the whole Cali experience."
Nnabuife’s road to Cal was not the smooth one he’d have liked when he prepped at Elkins High School in Missouri City, TX, near Houston.
“I played receiver, safety and corner in high school,” said Nnabuife. “I had 3 interceptions, 2 forced fumbles and 45 tackles as a junior but I got a new coach my senior season (the third in three years) and he was an offensive coach so he moved me over to receiver. I liked db a lot better but I went ahead and made the move.
“I didn't do a lot as a senior. I was going through a lot of issues. Our team didn't do real well, either. I think we went 3-7. Having a different coach every year didn't help, either.
"My first option out of high school was going to a small D1AA school like Sam Houston State but I decided to go to Blinn to be able to get more options in bigger programs. I felt that the coaches were really cool and if it weren't for them, I wouldn't even be heading to a school like Cal. Plus they had a reputation for getting guys into good programs so it made sense for me to go there and work hard and see what happens.
Blinn College has a burgeoning reputation for putting more than it’s share of players into four year programs, with 16 from last year’s team alone going to four year programs, including wr Blake Kelley (Texas Tech), DE Emanuel Stephens (Ole Miss), c Herman Hall (Arizona) and dl Zac Taylor (Oregon).
Since Head Coach Brad Francione arrived at Blinn, the Buccaneers promptly went 7-3, 12-0 and 7-3, including an NJCAA national championship in ’06 so in many ways, Blinn was a better road for Nnambuife to receive the exposure and experience he needed.
“Bryant came to our campus in spring ’07 as a walkon,” said Blinn Head Coach Brad Francione. "Our spring program’s pretty tough but he made the team without a problem. Then we played him out of position last fall. If he’d have played corner for us last fall, we’d have been a better football team. But we didn’t have a safety so we needed him there.
Franchione sees Nnabuife's transition potentially being faster than many jc transfers.
“He’ll have to get used to playing at that level but I think after fall camp Bryant will do well. He wants to listen to his coaches. He won’t have a problem. It might just take him a little time. I would say that once he gets through training camp, he should make a quick adjustment and be ready to play right away. The level I coach, you usually don’t count on a freshman until four games or so into the season. Bryant will probably make a little quicker transition. He’ll be able to adjust to the speed of the game faster. The three receivers I have -they’re as good as any Pac 10 receiver there is and he covered them well all spring. He’s the only db I have that could play man coverage with them. It was a good battle because those three receivers are phenomenal players -Kierrie Johnson, Justin Jordan and Travis Cobb. Kierrie signed with Houston last week so a lot of my starting lineup is gone. He’s played against great talent. He’s fast, he’s tall. He’s just about everything you could ask for in a corner.”
"I'll tell you what: He's a big, strong, fast, athletic young man," said Blinn offensive coordinator Lloyd Spotted Wolf. "He goes 6-2, 200 lbs. He's muscled up. He ran a 4.38 forty during spring. He's what everyone is looking for. And he’s a hard-worker and a great kid.”
"We played him at safety last year and we moved him to corner this spring and he really flourished," said Blinn defensive line coach Keith Browning. "He's just a prototype, man-to-man corner. The thing with Bryant is that he's such a big corner but he's got great hips and great speed and can run with any receiver out there. He's a phenomenal athlete. I think he's going to show up at Cal and have an impact early. His power clean is great and that shows you how explosive he is as an athlete. I think he power cleaned 295 and squatted 425. He's just a great kid with a great work ethic.”
Thanks to Cal linebacker coach Kenwick Thompson, the Bears have established a strong link to the perennially strong Blinn program.
“Coach Thompson did a great job with Bryant,” said Browning. “I talk to him all the time. I first met him when he recruited one of our former linemen, Alex Cook. Then last year, he came in late on our 4 star defensive end just two weeks before signing day and almost stole Emmanuel Stephens who ended up signing at Ole Miss. He does a great job and he's a great recruiter.”
Browning also elaborated on Nnabuife's late availability this spring.
"After the spring he had at corner, all kinds of programs got real interested in Bryant but most program's classes were already full for '08 and most were unaware that Bryant was a qualifier out of high school and eligible to play this year."
Nnabuife also credited his older brother Alvin with inspiring him to build a career in football. The former SMU receiver also had contracts with the Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers and NFL Europe before deciding to go back to school.
"My brother was a big inspiration to me," said Nnabuie. Without him, I don't even know if I'd even be playing. He inspired and encouraged me to go on and be as good as I could be."
The Bear staff left it open in determining where Nnabuife would be playing at Cal.
"Cal said they need both a safety and a corner. I'd rather play corner but I told them I'd play either. They said they like db's that can play either safety or corner and they just try to put the four best players out there."
Nnabuife planned to send his signed letter of intent today and arrive a week or so before fall camp to start his career with the Bears, having 4 years to play 3.
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