No doubt about it: Wisconsin-bound Njongmeta shows he's Big Ten material
The kid told Maema Njongmeta he would never play football for the University of Michigan. He might have even sneered.
The comment hurt Njongmeta, who, while athletic, was raw as a football player and a ways away from being a potential Big Ten recruit.
"(Michigan) was my dream school sophomore year," Njongmeta said.
That 2016 football season, on Stevenson's sophomore team, was the first time Njongmeta had ever started. The previous year, which was the first time he had ever played organized football, he had gotten in a couple of games on the freshman team.
But Njongmeta dreamed.
The cynic had no idea about the boy's drive. Nor talent.
On Saturday, Njongmeta announced on Twitter that he accepted a scholarship offer to continue his academic and football career at the University of Wisconsin. Sorry, Michigan, which actually wasn't one of the more than 20 college football programs that made an offer to Stevenson's 6-foot-1, 210-pound, intelligent, high-motor linebacker.
"It's the greatest testament to trusting the process, trusting God's plan and believing in myself," Njongmeta said. "There are so many things -- that parents I guess want to pass onto their children -- that I had to not lonely learn but I had to believe in throughout this journey."
In the end, Leo and Lynda Njongmeta's youngest of two boys made a decision that made sense to him. And that included saving cents.
Despite offers from Tulane, Rice, Georgetown, Northern Illinois, Iowa State, Indiana State, Navy, Harvard, Yale, Bowling Green State and many more, Njongmeta was set to attend Stanford as a preferred walk-on.
"I was working on my Stanford (application) and getting everything figured out," Njongmeta said. "Wisconsin offered on Tuesday (of last week). I was thinking, 'This is amazing. But can I turn down Stanford?' "
The Wisconsin offer was a "game-changer," Njongmeta said. He needed time, however, to make a decision that ultimately might change his course and future.
"I sat on it," he said. "I'm like, 'I'm not jumping to any rash decisions. Let me take a week and think about it.' "
He took a little less time than that to make his decision. He had visited Wisconsin last month and went back to Madison last Saturday. He was sold. He gave Badgers head coach Paul Chryst a verbal commitment.
By accepting a full ride offer from Wisconsin, where he wants to pursue a degree in finance and banking, Njongmeta knows he will be saving his family thousands of dollars annually.
"Even though Stanford is amazing academically, Wisconsin is amazing academically," Njongmeta said. "And Wisconsin's close. And Wisconsin has an awesome football coach. There's so many positives with Wisconsin."
Wisconsin is getting a player who racked up a staggering 134 tackles, including 81 solos, 24 for loss and 11 sacks in 10 games this season for Stevenson, which earned a state playoff berth for the 30th year in a row. Njongmeta also had 12 hurries and 2 fumble recoveries.
And the kid who had 23 sacks in two varsity seasons should feel right at home. Wisconsin boasts three other Lake County inside linebackers in senior T.J. Edwards (Lakes), sophomore Mike Maskalunas (Stevenson) and freshman Jack Sanborn (Lake Zurich).
"It's like a linebacker factory over here (in Lake County)," Njongmeta said with a laugh.
Cynics would be wise not to doubt the next one with big potential and an even bigger heart.
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