“If you look, there are a lot of Nigerians who play [in the NFL]. But other Africans, like from Cameroon or Algeria, you don’t really see that. Maybe it’s a testament to the work ethic you see from our parents or the desire to accomplish whatever you set your mind to.
So many people said to me that I’d never make it to the NFL. But when I saw my parents come from nothing and get their PhDs in the States, that told me I could accomplish anything.”
Ihedigbo had to put up a rigorous effort in order to achieve his set goal of playing in the NFL. He did a lot of workouts in the weight room and that helped him to be most physically sculpted for the league. “I have the mindset of always trying to outwork my competition, so I’m always trying to do more,” he says. “If someone wants to be great at their craft, I think they’d be doing the same thing.”
Ihedigbo played football at the University of Massachusetts Amherst from 2002-2006. After arriving in 2002, Ihedigbo redshirted his first year. In the following season, he started 10 of 12 games for UMass, picking off 4 passes, making a total of 74 tackles with 2 forced fumbles and was named the team’s most improved defensive player.
In 2004 he had 52 Tackles but no interception. In his third year at Massachusetts, Ihedigbo switched to strong safety from free safety and ranked sixth on the team in total tackles with 45. In his redshirt junior year, he was named to the Atlantic 10 conference third team and started at strong safety for a team which allowed the fewest points in all of Division I-AA football. He finished third in the conference in sacks with 7.5.
As a senior, he had 72 tackles, 5 quarterback sacks, 3 interception, and 4 forced fumbles, he was a candidate for the Buck Buchanan Award and a Walter Camp All-American as well as a senior captain. He also received UMass team MVP for 2006.
Undrafted in 2007, Ihedigbo played the first four years of his pro career with the New York Jets. He then spent 2011-16 with four different teams: the New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, Detroit Lions, and Buffalo Bills. His career years may have come in 2013-14 when he combined for 172 tackles and seven interceptions with the Ravens and Lions. He was also part of Baltimore’s Super Bowl-winning secondary in 2012.
He was an undrafted free agent who played college ball at UMass Amherst as a walk-on. Today, the 30-year old NFL veteran has a Super Bowl ring and two AFC Championship wins, with a resume that includes stints with the Jets, Patriots, Ravens and the lions.