North Xtra: Duquesne grad a Colts standout

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A four-week long preseason features two practices a week. During the nine-week season, practices and games are once a week.

The rest of the 339 days of the year, Pittsburgh Colts players are on their own.

Considering those parameters, one of the best attributes a player on a semipro football team can have is being self-motivated.

Duquesne University graduate Chidozie Oparanozie fits the bill.

"Dozie is a quiet leader," Colts coach Ed Brosky said. "He will do anything you ask him to do. He is self-motivated and in shape. These guys haven't given up on that dream, particularly Dozie."

Oparanozie, a linebacker and running back, is in his first season with the Colts. He was raised on the North Side, but attended The Linsly School, a private boarding school in Wheeling, W.Va., where he played football and ran track. Football was a relatively new sport to him before high school, but he took to it quickly.

He emerged as a playmaker at running back at Linsly. He totaled 299 yards of total offense and scored a school-record seven touchdowns in a 60-54 double-overtime win against Cleveland Richmond Heights his senior year.

He went on to play linebacker at Duquesne in 2008 and from 2011-12. His senior year he finished third on the team with 42 solo tackles and 46 assists. Oparanozie, 23, still lives near the Duquesne campus and joined the Colts this season.

"As I tell them when I recruit them, this is the easiest level of football you will play, but the hardest," Brosky said. "You are basically playing on your own terms. You have to get in shape on your own, you have to weight-train on your own, you don't have a regimented schedule."

The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Oparanozie maintains aspirations to play football at a higher level.

"We will see about the 2015 season; the Arena League is definitely an option and Canada is definitely an option," he said. "I really just want to play football. There really is no other way to put it. The plan is to get into some combines, workouts or camps. I definitely want to go to the next level."

So far, it appears Oparanozie is on the right path.

In a game against Akron this year, he had 14 unassisted tackles.

"He can cover, he can blitz, he is a run-stopper," Brosky said.

He is also getting a chance to combine his primary high school position, running back, with his college position, linebacker.

"We play these guys on both sides of the ball," Brosky said. "We are trying to market them to display their talent and show that they are football players."

He rushed five times for 26 yards against Akron.

"It is definitely fun," Oparanozie said. "I never thought I would be able to play both sides again after high school. It is definitely a great opportunity."

Brosky thinks the Arena Football League could be a prime landing spot for Oparanozie.

"I believe right now with what we are doing with him, he would be a definite candidate to play with the Power as a fullback and linebacker," Brosky said. "Here is a guy you have to look at."

Four games into the nine-game season, the Pittsburgh Colts are 3-1 in the Semi Professional Football (SPF) League. This is their first year in the two-year-old league. They started the season 2-0 with wins against the Cleveland Warriors and Akron Silverbacks before penalties and turnovers in the fourth quarter cost them a game against the New York Sting. They bounced back Saturday with a 26-0 win against the Cleveland Warriors.

"I am pretty sure we have corrected all the mistakes we made the week before," Brosky said referencing the loss to New York. "We just had too many mental errors, there hasn't been many physical errors."

The Colts return to action at home against the Buffalo Hornets at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Chartiers Valley High School.


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