Fendi Onobun: From UA hoops to C-USA football Player of the Weekby Anthony Gimino on Nov. 04, 2009, under Sports
In a different world — one in which he wasn’t pulled out of his redshirt halfway through his freshman year — maybe Fendi Onobun would be putting on an Arizona basketball jersey tonight for Arizona’s first exhibition game under coach Sean Miller.
Instead, he’s having a grand time back in his hometown, playing one season of football as a walk-on for the Houston Cougars.
Onobun, who never really found his niche as a UA power forward, finished his Arizona basketball eligibility last season and then did some workouts for NFL scouts. Hey, everyone always said the guy was built like a tight end.
Turns out, he has become a tight end for a high-powered Houston offense — the Cougars are 7-1 and are second nationally in scoring at 41.6 points per game — although Onobun hasn’t been much of a factor there. He had a bum ankle through the early part of the season and has one catch.
He’s still a bundle of raw, inexperienced talent in football, but he put his athleticism to good use last week in a 50-43 win over Southern Miss. He blocked two extra points, including one that was returned 100 yards for two points for the Cougars.
Onobun was selected the Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week.
“It was awesome,” Onobun told the Houston Chronicle. “To be able to do something like that, I was just happy to be able to help the team. I just want to help the team win any way I can.”
Onobun is tying learn football — a sport he hadn’t played since middle school — and increase his visibility to the NFL scouts. At 6-6 and a rock solid 250 pounds, no doubt he has some physical tools.
“From the time he got here, he was on the right track,” Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said at his weekly press conference Tuesday.
“He was making progress coming from basketball. He had a high-ankle sprain on the first or second day we were in pads, which set him back by four or five weeks. It hasn’t been a matter of whether he was talented enough or progressing enough to play for us. It was a matter of his injury.
“He missed a month a couple of weeks before the first game and the first two or three games completely. He had to get back into the swing of things. You’ll see him getting better and contributing every week.
“He was an early signee in basketball and, at that time, Arizona was the one of the top-eight programs in the country. That makes him one of the better athletes in the nation. It’s not often that you have an athlete who is 6-6 and 250 pounds walk in the door, so we were more than willing to give him a chance, and he was more than willing to give us a chance. It’s worked out.
“He’s a Houston native, and he’s back closer to his family. It’s an investment on his part both financially and physically to do what he’s doing. There is still time for him to get better and he’s working on it.”
Anthony Gimino can be reached at anthonygimino (at) gmail.com