Name least of ‘Ike’s’ worries

first_imgWith a last name like his, Jack Ikegwuonu has heard every pronunciation under the sun.”I can’t even remember them all, they’re so outlandish,” the sophomore defensive back said. “Everybody calls me ‘Ike’ because they don’t want to worry about pronouncing my last name.”In fact, some of his coaches still have trouble with it.”To be honest with you, I don’t think I’ve ever pronounced his last name,” joked defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks. “His first name is Jack. The only name that I give him is Ike.”Everybody butchers it, so I don’t even try.”Although it may be difficult for people to say his name (for the record, it’s ike-uh-GWAN-new), it has been rather easy to see the impact he has made on the football field in his second season with the team.With three interceptions as a freshman last season, Ikegwuonu has carried over his strong play into this year, including an interception against Michigan.”We wanted him to come in and give him little baby steps [last year],” Cooks said. “I think the experience he gained from playing last year is what makes him so confident now. He’s seen the speed of the game, and he’s starting to understand better what the offenses are trying to do in different offensive formations.”Ikegwuonu has also grown to realize that individual stats are not the most important thing.”You always try to just do one better from last year,” Ikegwuonu said. “I think success isn’t always measured in terms of interceptions. I think [it’s measured by] what you contribute to the defense, and what you force the offense to do in terms of your presence on the field. That’s what I’m trying to do right now.””He studies his opponents,” safety Roderick Rogers said. “He’s studying film and getting smarter in terms of the game.”As hard working as he is, Ikegwuonu is an equally good teammate.”He’s a good kid,” Cooks added. “He comes from a well-respected family and he’s a ‘yes sir, no sir’ type of kid. He’ll do anything in the world for his team and for his teammates.”A three-sport athlete in high school, Ikegwuonu was able to hone his athletic skills from his other two sports, baseball and basketball, to make him a better football player.”Every sport has its little elements that you need to be good at to be successful in that given sport,” he said. “It’s kind of nice coming from a three-sport athlete to be able to specialize in one, because in high school you had so many things to do. Now you can specialize and focus on it.”As another testament to his natural athleticism, Ikegwuonu played on both the offensive and defensive side of the football in high school.”I think a lot of young kids want to play offense, want to be the guy that scores the touchdowns (and) want to be the guy that’s in the limelight all the time,” Ikegwuonu said. “I thought that my opportunity was going to be on defense because I felt that if I did well on defense, that’s where I’d be most successful.”Athleticism runs in the Ikegwuonu family, too. Jack’s twin brother, Bill, plays as defensive back for Northern Illinois. There is no sibling rivalry between the Ikegwuonu brothers there.”Oh, no, definitely not,” Jack said. “He’s always supportive, and I’m always supportive of him. All he wants to do is see me do well. He’s such a great brother. I couldn’t ask for a better one because he’s so supportive.”Even though Ikegwuonu says football is not the only thing in his life, he admits that family conversations often revolve around the game.”That’s all we talk about,” he said. “We’re a football family. It’s a game we love.”Despite all the success he and the Badgers have enjoyed this year, including the Big Ten’s top-ranked pass defense, Ikegwuonu knows the team must stay humble and keep doing what they have been doing.”I think we’ve got to forget about all those statistics,” he said. “We’ve got to keep those out of our heads. Games aren’t played on paper. We just gotta do the little things right that we’ve been doing and just go out there and play.”As Ikegwuonu and the Badgers’ defense continues their strong play the rest of the season, listen for his name being called over the loudspeaker, whether it is “ick-uh-gu-nu,” “iguano” or just plain Ike, but don’t worry about the pronunciation. After all, his game speaks for itself.last_img