Oct. 15, 2013
Nosa Eguae looks forward to returning to his home state to play Texas A&M on Saturday (Todd Van Emst photo)
By Phillip Marshall
AUBURN, Ala. – As defensive lineman Nosa Eguae’s high school football career ended in Mansfield, Texas, he had plenty of options. He’d been committed to Colorado before changing his mind. Texas Tech, Texas A&M and Nebraska were among the schools recruiting him hard.
Eguae figured he’d end up at one of those schools. After all, he’d grown up in Big 12 country. He was a Big 12 guy. But a call from Auburn changed everything.
“I remember watching Auburn games on TV, but it never really crossed my mind I would go to Auburn,” Eguae says. “I finally took my visit, and I just fell in love with the place. People were so serious and so consumed about their ball, and that was the same way I was. I wanted to be at a place where people took pride in it and cared about it.”
In February 2009, Eguae signed with Auburn. Since then, he’s seen college football from all sides. As a redshirt freshman, he started 11 games at defensive end on the 2010 national championship team. He started every game in 2011. He was in out of the starting lineup in the disastrous season of 2012. And now, halfway through his senior season, he’s back in the lineup, this time at defensive tackle.
Eguae says he is grateful that he decided to shock almost everyone he knew and play for Auburn.
“This is the best decision I ever made in my life, to come to Auburn University,” Eguae says. “It has definitely made me the man I am today. On the field, just playing for the Auburn family, and playing before 90,000 in Jordan-Hare on Saturday night, it doesn’t get much better than that. I’m going to relish these last games and make the most I can of the time I have left.”
Eguae will relish the next game more than most. More than four years after he left his home state, he will return when No. 24 Auburn plays No. 7 Texas A&M on Saturday after at Kyle Field. Kickoff time is set for 2:30 p.m. on CBS.
“It’s going to be a nice experience for me,” Eguae says. “I have a bunch of family calling and saying they are going to be able to make the game. Being able to play in front of family is going to be exciting for me.”
But most of all, Eguae says, it’s a game his team needs to win.
“It’s going to be a big game, not just me but for this program and for Auburn,” Eguae says. “I’m not going to make this about me by any means. This is a big game for Auburn.”
Last October, Eguae’s first experience playing against Texas A&M was a painful one. The Aggies put a historic beatdown on the Tigers, winning 63-21 at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Different team and different season, Eguae says.
“That was a tough game for us,” Eguae says. “You think about it, but you don’t dwell on it. We’ve made some super big strides since then, and we are looking forward to going to get a victory this Saturday.”
The son of Nigerian immigrants who became United States citizens, Eguae loved football from the time he was young. His father remembers he loved to watch football on television when he was 3 years old. He wanted to play football when he was in the third grade, but his father made him wait one more year.
Sam Eguae is a microbiology professor at Paul Quinn College in Dallas, and school always came first for his children. Nosa worked hard in school and was an outstanding student, but always there was football.
“It has been his lifelong plan, and God has given him the potential,” Sam Eguae says. “The move (to Auburn) brought that potential out. He has graduated. I am really proud of my son.”
Nosa Eguae, who graduated last May with a degree in communications, and his fellow seniors got together not long after last season ended with a 3-9 record that left fans stunned and coaches looking for jobs. When Gus Malzahn took over as head coach, the seniors vowed things would be different in 2013.
“Those seniors last year, it was tough for them,” Eguae says. “I wish they’d been able to go out better than that. For us, we knew had a good group of seniors. We have guys that have been around here for a while and played a lot of football. We just want to make sure that we end this thing the right way.
“We just go out there every day and lead by example. We hold ourselves accountable and hold others accountable. Guys are going to follow our lead. Our No. 1 goal is to have the biggest turnaround in college football. That’s what we work for every single day.”
With half a season to play, the Tigers have done just that. After a 1-5 start last season, they are off to a 5-1 start this season. After going 0-8 in the Southeastern Conference last season, they are 2-1 this season.
“We are growing,” Eguae says. "Everybody is getting better every single day. Coach Malzahn preaches you either get better or get worse. You’re not going to stay the same. It doesn’t matter about your opponent. If you handle your business, you are going to be successful.”
Eguae apparently will play out his Auburn career as an undersized defensive tackle. He welcomed the move two weeks ago and would have welcomed it two years ago.
“It’s nice,” Eguae says. “It’s a good move for me. I’m a natural at the position. I’m just trying to get better every game. My first two games I’ve made plays, but I want to have a bigger impact. I feel like I have a step on most guards. They may have me by 15 or 20 pounds, but I feel like I make up for it with strength. I feel like I’m just as strong as those guys in there. It’s a slugfest, but I enjoy it.”
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: