In a league that's hungry for reliable pass protectors, we've seen the athletic prototypes selected earlier than what they may have warranted.
Kolton Miller and Tytus Howard are two of the latest examples. Both have rounded into top form and shown promising traits while starting for their respective teams. Auburn left tackle Prince Tega Wanogho is the latest natural pass protector who teams will hope to turn into a better run blocker.
Wanogho, his parents and eight siblings are from Delta State, Nigeria. His family arrived in the United States in 2014.
The son of Prince Philip U.D. and Princess Onome Wanogho, Wanogho wanted to pursue basketball and swinging — they were the only two sports he was interested in. Bobby Carr, the head coach at Edgewood Academy in Alabama, noticed Wanogho’s frame at basketball practice and after repeated attempts, Carr finally convinced Wanogho to try his luck on the gridiron.
Carr’s lasting memory will be Wanogho running a 4.64 40-yard dash time despite barely even knowing how to get into the proper stance. He started as a tight end and defensive lineman, and schools were beginning to take notice of his athleticism.
Wanogho’s first scholarship offer came from Kentucky and was admittedly disappointed because he originally thought it was a basketball offer. Opting to stay in-state and attend Auburn, Wanogho was forced to redshirt during his first season after suffering a broken leg in his one and only basketball season at Edgewood.
He experienced his first action in 2016 as a reserve offensive lineman. In 2017, his development began to show and he started the first four games of the season as the team’s blindside protector at left tackle. His progress reached new heights during the 2018 season — starting all 13 games at left tackle.
Wanogho’s final campaign resulted in an invitation to the Reese's Senior Bowl, but he missed the week of practices and game due to injury.
The following transcript has been edited for clarity.
Question: We talked briefly at the Senior Bowl and I know everything has been a whirlwind for you, but how has the pre-draft process been?
Wanogho: Busy, busy, busy. It's just a lot of stuff. It's been a great experience so far though.
Q: I want to go all the way back to your childhood. You're from Delta State. Take me back through that entire experience, your upbringing and what that has taught you so far.
W: Coming from Nigeria to the United States, it's a whole different world. Just coming over here and seeing all of these limitless opportunities in front of me. It's been great. I've been enjoying it so far and I know that I've been blessed just being here.
Q: So, I was reading about you and saw that you're the son of a Prince and Princess in your homeland. Tell me more about that.
W: My grandad is the King of a village back home and he's more like a mayor, but I didn't know that. Whenever I moved over here, that's when I really understood it.
Q: You came over to the US in 2014. What was that journey like?
W: It was crazy because, just coming over here, I went to a basketball camp over in Nigeria. It's called the Effiong Foundation. [Eyo Effiong] hosts camps because that's his way of giving back to the community because he's Nigerian also. He brings coaches, equipment and school supplies to help others back home. I was actually selected to play in the all-star game at one of his camps, that's how I was noticed, and I received a scholarship to come here to play basketball.
Q: I read that one of your first scholarship offers in football came from Kentucky, but you were upset that it wasn't in basketball. Is that true?
W: That's true. I was upset (laughs). Growing up, you know that Kentucky was a real big time basketball school. I always wanted to play basketball.
Q: If [Auburn's head men's basketball coach] Bruce Pearl would've recruited you, would you have played?
W: Hell yeah! I'd do anything that man asked me to do.
Q: Let’s talk about your time at Edgewood Academy. You came in as mostly a basketball player, but one of the football coaches made you run a 40-yard dash and persuaded you to play football after that.
W: When I first got [to the U.S.], it was football season. I was in the gym with a bunch of little kids just dunking. They were pretty amazed. Everybody for the most part played football and coach had asked me do I want to play? I said, “Yeah, I'll give it a try.” I just wanted to try it just to stay in shape. The bad part though was that they didn't have a football cleat to fit me. My feet are big and wide. Unfortunately they didn't have a size 16 cleat. I had to run a forty in my tennis shoes. He was timing it and I think I ran a 4.6.
Q: You didn't start out as an offensive tackle though. You were a defensive lineman first. Talk about that transition and the hardest part about it.
W: It was an easy decision for me. You know, I didn't play football for long, so coach [Gus] Malzahn asked me after the 2016 spring game what I thought about making the switch to the other side and I told him that I was down for it. My exact words were, “Whatever you want me to do coach, I'm going to do it.” At the same time, I was trying to earn playing time. The hardest part was the playbook.
Q: What would you say is your biggest strength and weakness is right now?
W: One of them is in the passing game. I feel like I'm pretty solid as a pass protector. I need to improve in the run game though.
W: Those guys make you a better player and better person everyday. They'll laugh and joke with you, but when the ball is placed down, they enter another level. They're bringing it every day. We made ourselves better as players and as a unit.