Ottawa – It’s been quite a year for Carleton’s Kene Onyeka. After an award-winning campaign a year ago, the defensive lineman was drafted in the fourth-round (29th overall) to the Ottawa Redblacks in May’s CFL Draft, followed that up with a conference-leading sack total this season, and now finds himself and the Ravens heading into the semifinals this weekend.
This year, Onyeka’s presence has been felt once again, with his seven sacks adding further credence to his top-tier status in the game. He has consistently put intense pressure on teams’ O-lines and QBs this year, but this isn’t the first time we’ve watched the veteran dominate the OUA.
In fact, he's been a top player in the league for quite some time. Last year, he even went so far as to win the J.P. Metras Award as the OUA’s Lineman of the Year; an award that Onyeka called “a huge honour” stating that “there are so many great linemen in the conference, so for my name to even be considered is amazing”.
Honestly, Onyeka has brought high levels of consistency and talent throughout his five-year career in the OUA, and while much of this dominance can be attributed to pure skill and hard work, it’s his competitive nature and dedication to the game and his team that have kept him in top form all these years. With this type of mentality, he knows that “[his] teammates expect [him] to help win games,” so every time he steps onto the field, that’s precisely what he tries to do.
Like a true leader, while his entire team looks to him, he’s been taking notes from the others around him. One teammate in particular that has left an impact is fourth-year defensive back Justin Howell – a player who exemplifies hard work and showcases a stellar work ethic. Onyeka even attributes his stellar season to his coaches and teammates – explaining that it’s the strength of the Ravens’ entire defensive line that allows some of the attention to be drawn away from him and offers him the opportunity to generate sacks.
As Onyeka looks to move on from his collegiate football career at the end of this season, he looks back on his past five years as a Raven with nothing but pride. He understands that “putting on a Raven jersey is about representing all of those who came before [him] and those who will come after [him]”. And he also knows that he’s built relationships that will last a lifetime and memories that he’ll never forget – the culmination of which was that unbelievable Hail Mary win in the Panda game in Onyeka’s first year – a win that no Raven fan will soon forget.
These are memories and relationships that he’ll carry with him as he begins the next chapter of his career next year. While he’ll be joining his favourite team in the CFL, he’s not the first in his family to do so. Onyeka is following in the footsteps of a number of his family members, including his brother Godfrey, who was also selected in May by the Edmonton Eskimos (10th overall) and his cousin Nakas, who was drafted by the Toronto Argonauts in 2017; his other cousin – Kosi – is a linebacker for the University of Guelph’s Gryphons. Talk about a Canadian football pedigree!
When the history books turn the page, and Onyeka no longer suits up for the Ravens, he doesn’t want to be remembered for his on-field successes. It isn’t the records, the awards, the personal bests, or any of the like that are important to him. No, what Onyeka wants to be remembered for is his personality. He wants his energy and his ability to “lift the spirits of everyone in the room” to be his legacy.
But beyond that, he also wants to be remembered as an incredible teammate – one who made sure everyone around him was getting better each and every day. And it’s because of these very attributes that we know Onyeka will leave his mark on the Ravens and the OUA long after his graduation.