Godwin Igwebuike’s NFL dream was placed in the same space as his training equipment. The basement.
After playing six games in two seasons in the NFL, the 212-pounder Pickerington thought it might be time to consider another career path. Real estate was an option. There was also a vision to coordinate and host a festival of music and religious art at his parents’ home in Canal Winchester.
Professional football? Well that was awesome as long as it lasted. But the NFL is a business, and it looks like no team have been blown away by their updated resume:
Goal: To enjoy a successful and stable career in the NFL and bring value to my team.
Professional experience: Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on April 30, 2018; waived seven months later; claimed by the San Francisco 49ers; waived four months later; claimed by the Philadelphia Eagles; waived three months later; claimed by the New York Jets in August 2019; withdrawn 3 Â½ weeks later; signed with the Seattle Dragons of the XFL; contract terminated after five games when the league suspended operations due to COVID-19.
College: Northwest (2014-17); twice second All-Big Ten team.
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High school: running back and defensive back in Pickerington North; 1,985 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns in the senior season; All-Ohio, The Associated Press First Team; recorded six interceptions, one pick-six, 79 tackles and two forced fumbles; four star rookie.
Awesome stuff, but as 2021 entered, no NFL offers were on the way. COVID had cut back on minicamp testing in 2020 and teams were less willing to take risks with players on the sidelines.
Is it time for Igwebuike to move on?
“It was definitely one of those situations where you have these thoughts, ‘Is it time to move on? Am I one of those guys who trains but wastes my time? ‘ Igwebuike said this week from his home in Detroit. “They don’t keep a database of how many guys are doing this right now, but it’s more than you can imagine.”
Igwebuike would train, meet on the farm twice a week with a trainer, do defensive back exercises in the front yard, stretch and lift in the basement. But he was not wasting his time. Solitary walks around the 20 acre farm brought a sense of peace and purpose. Rather than looking too far ahead or bemoaning what was behind, Igwebuike focused on where his feet were, where he was standing right now. He began to put his passion for music and art into an event called “Favor Farms Festival”.
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The Detroit Lions in play
âI have always had a passion for sport, but also for music and art and a convergence of the two into a really just community,â he said. âA lot of Christian art and music has their fingertips, so (the festival) offers the opportunity to experience quality music and art to build community and unity. “
The first Favor Farms event took place in October 2020.
Then the phone rang.
The Detroit Lions were on the line. They offered Igwebuike a futures contract in January 2021. After two years out of the NFL, security was back. But not safe. Two weeks before training camp opened, Lions coach Dan Campbell called the defensive back. Uh-oh. Was he released? Not exactly. Campbell said he was changing the 27-year-old to a running back, a position he hadn’t played since high school.
Igwebuike was surprised, but not shocked. Much goes through a person’s head and heart on leisurely walks in the woods, on deserted country lanes, or along windswept beaches. Even on your parents’ farm. It was during one of these walks that something in Igwebuike’s mind, a feeling of God if you will, told him that he would run again someday.
There was no mention from above on how well he would play the position. That part was up to him, and after meeting his former coaches at Northwestern to work on blocking the run and the finer aspects of the job, he made the most of the change by becoming an important save option.
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Igwebuike’s 7.4-yard average on 16 attempts ranks second in the league among players with at least 15 carries, and his 42-yard touchdown run against Pittsburgh in Week 10 was the most long touchdown by a Lions player in a road game since Barry Sanders in 1997. He also converted a third and 10 on a 13-yard catch that helped keep Detroit’s go-ahead alive in the Canadiens’ only victory. Lions vs. Minnesota. And he’s also dangerous on kicking returns, ranking sixth in the league with 556 yards.
Despite these numbers and achievements, doubt still hangs just behind confidence, reminding Igwebuike that he is a phone call away from being back on the farm.
Fortunately, the best angels of his nature are winning the mental showdown. Even after a costly fumble last week in Denver, he tries to see the negatives as a learning tool, not an accusation of who he is as a person.
âI realize through this game that the way I react in this game is the way I will react for the rest of my life,â he said. “How to deal with stress? How can I take root and deal with fear? “
A break, and the safe running back answered his own questions.
âYou trust your abilities when history might say otherwise,â he said. âThe same things in life. We have to deal with and face different parts of ourselves, and understand that we can come out on top. “
Well said. Don’t stay in your basement forever.