By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - A brother to seven sisters, Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. has the ideal temperament for an offensive lineman.
"I like to protect," says Wanogho, a redshirt sophomore. "That's one of my biggest attributes. I like to protect a lot. It's easy for me to do that."
Music to a quarterback's ears.
With no fundamental flaws to unlearn after playing only one season of high school football, Prince Tega likens himself to a "little baby."
With one exception. At 6-foot-7, 305 pounds, there's nothing little about Auburn's emerging left tackle.
Growing up in Nigeria, Wanogho played soccer and basketball. He came to the U.S. in 2014 as a high school junior, attending Edgewood Academy in Elmore, Ala.
"Back in Nigeria, we would see movies," he says. "We'd see the good life about America. Everybody's dream is to come enjoy that life, too. It's always been a big dream of mine. My dream was to play in the NBA."
Wanogho watched movies about football, too, but never tried to play until Edgewood coach Bobby Carr invited him to give it a shot.
"I decided, `Okay, I'll just try to do it. Try to stay fit before basketball season starts,'" Prince Tega remembers. "They put pads on me and a helmet to strap on. All they said was, `Go, tackle the quarterback.'
"The thing about it that is funny to this day. I remember just going out there, I didn't know what I was doing. I was just running, trying to get the quarterback every time. Sometimes, I looked like a fool. They would fake, and I was just standing right there. That was my first experience. It was pretty fun. It was like yesterday.
"I didn't know there were 11 guys on the field. I just knew five linemen, quarterback. I didn't know much about the rules, three-point stance. It was real trouble trying to get me to get in a three-point stance. I didn't really know much about it."
A defensive end and tight end in high school, Prince Tega's highlight video, showcasing his size and athleticism, wowed college coaches.
After reclassifying as a senior in 2015, he signed with Auburn, redshirted, then changed from defense to offense, playing in 10 games last season.
"It was a really big deal," he says. "Now I know what to expect. I feel like I'm prepared for whatever comes next."
"They asked me, `Do you see yourself playing O-line? Left tackle?'" Prince Tega says. "I said, `I don't really care. I don't really know much about the game. Whichever position the coaches want me to play, I'm fully open-minded that I was going to do it.'
"That was the first step. Coach Malzahn asked me one day, `Would you think about playing offense?' I'll do it."
In two years, he's gained 60 pounds. "I've got my speed, though," says Prince Tega, who, as a visual learner, says he benefited by watching his older teammates.
"I really appreciate them a lot," he says. "I remember my transition from defense to offense. I didn't know what I was doing. Braden and Darius [James] took me under their wings and showed me what to do."
The sports of his youth facilitated Prine Tega's transition.
"That's one reason I got really good at football is because I liked playing soccer growing up, and playing basketball, too, made my footwork better," he says.
Three years after playing his first football game, Prince Tega is competing for a starting position on Auburn's offensive line.
"It's been a really good experience for me," he says. "I didn't expect to be where I am today. Coming over here, God has a different road for me."
-- Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) August 17, 2017
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer
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