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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Usman’s path leading to the end

The University of Arizona football team takes part in evening practice Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, at the Fort Huachuca Army Base in Sierra Vista, Ariz. The Wildcats will look to reach a bowl game for the third season in a row with quarterback Nick Foles at the helm.
(Photograph by Mike Christy)
Mike Christy
The University of Arizona football team takes part in evening practice Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010, at the Fort Huachuca Army Base in Sierra Vista, Ariz. The Wildcats will look to reach a bowl game for the third season in a row with quarterback Nick Foles at the helm. (Photograph by Mike Christy)

Arizona defensive end Mohammed Usman is as tatted as they come, sporting ink all over his arms, back and chest with everything from NFL logos to quotes from his mother.

“”I stopped counting a long time ago,”” Usman said. “”I’ve got a long way to go.””

While each and every tattoo has its own meaning, one stands out among the crowd. Spanning across Usman’s abdomen, inches above his belly button, reads the words: “”Only God Knows.””

“”You have one path,”” Usman explained. “”Only God knows, and you’ve just got to walk it. Whatever path he leads you is the path you’re destined for.””

Usman’s walked that path all of the way from the University of Houston to Navarro College to Arizona, dealing with academic ineligibility along the way.

But entering his final season of collegiate football, Usman’s opportunity is finally his for the taking. And he’s determined to succeed.

“”I’m definitely confident,”” Usman said. “”I’m always humble to even have a chance, but I’m definitely very confident. Very confident.””

With Brooks Reed, D’Aundre Reed and Ricky Elmore all NFL-bound, Usman is expected to step in as one of the Wildcats’ two starting defensive ends, regardless of his minimal three games of experience as a Wildcat.

After playing in nine games for Houston as a true freshman in 2008, the Arlington, Texas, native transferred to Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, where he led the Bulldogs in sacks.

Former Arizona offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes finally lured Usman away from his home state, but Usman’s path didn’t come without turbulence.

He was hit with a nine-game suspension due to academic ineligibility to start the 2010 campaign and played sparingly in the final three games of the season, racking up two total tackles.

“”It was horrible,”” Usman said of sitting out. “”It was just hard that I couldn’t play because I had to sit out, but it taught me a lot. I just grew from that.””

But despite the speed-bumps, Usman quickly developed into one of the defensive line’s most explosive players as a product of his work ethic and constant energy.

When asked to describe Usman, his fellow teammate and defensive end C.J. Parish said with a smile, “”Energy. He gets the line hyped up.””

That energy is resulting in first-team reps and a likely starting spot for the player known by his teammates as the “”Nigerian Nightmare.””

While Usman’s taking his current teammates by storm, former teammate Brooks Reed is helping him through the process.

Usman said the two talk “”damn-near every day”” and considered Brooks Reed one of his “”biggest mentors”” since arriving at Arizona.

Usman, who has zero career sacks at Arizona, clearly won’t match Brooks Reed’s production on the field. The former defensive end and his heir apparent couldn’t be more different.

The 6-foot-5, long-haired Brooks Reed had been the model of consistency as a Tucson-lifer and Arizona mainstay, while Usman’s an undersized junior-college player set to compete for his third school in four years.

Although the two have taken completely different paths, the Nigerian Nightmare is finally at the destination his tattoo stands for, and he’s ready to flourish.

“”Brooks has showed me a lot, and I’m just trying to get where he’s at,”” Usman said. “”And we’re trying to get to the Rose Bowl.””


Usman’s partner in crime

Usman certainly isn’t alone in his quest to plug the defensive end gap left by Arizona’s trio of NFL-caliber ends. Although he has one more year of tenure at Arizona than Usman, Parish has taken a similarly unorthodox path toward becoming Arizona’s starting defensive end.

The 6-foot-2, 235-pound College Station, Texas, product transferred from Blinn College in 2008 and has played everything from linebacker to fullback to defensive end since joining the Wildcats in 2009.

Like Usman, Parish is finally set to make an impact on a down-to-down basis next season, and he couldn’t think of anyone better to face the challenge with.

“”Basically that’s my brother,”” Parish said of Usman. “”Everybody on the D-Line is my brother but me and him, we have a special bond and that’s something that’s beautiful when you have two ends and two brothers that can sit up there and can talk to the whole D-Line and keep everybody hyped up.””

Although they played against each other in 2008, Parish and Usman didn’t know each other until Usman arrived in Tucson. Parish admitted there was “”a little animosity at first”” but then “”we came in and was like, ‘Hey, we’re both from junior college. Let’s work together. Let’s get this done.'””

The dynamic duo is used to working together in a practice setting, but, with both Usman and Parish set to start in the fall, they’ll be asked to translate that to game-time. They’ve played a combined six games — not including special teams — and collected seven total tackles, but head coach Mike Stoops believes in his two well-traveled senior defensive ends.

“”Obviously, losing two All-Pac-10 defensive ends gets a little difficult to replace, but I like what our defensive ends are doing,”” he said. “”C.J. Parish has done a lot of good things and so has Mohammed Usman.””

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