Robert Nkemdiche certainly passes the eyeball test.
At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, he looks more like Julius Peppers than a high school student. The Grayson (Loganville, Ga.) defensive end plays like Peppers, too.
With his size, strength (he benches 340 pounds, squats 500 and power cleans 340) and speed (4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash), Nkemdiche (pronounced kim-DEECH-ee) can do pretty much anything he wants against offensive linemen. Last year, he wreaked havoc in the trenches to the tune of 58 tackles, 23 tackles for loss and 18 sacks.
This season, he’s faced a variety of game plans designed to prevent him from crushing the quarterback. Nevertheless, he’s made a huge impact for Grayson, which is 4-0 and ranked No. 16 in the POWERADE FAB 50 ESPNHS Team Rankings.
Nkemdiche has also seen time at running back this season and ran for the game-winning touchdown in the Rams’ season-opening win over Kell (Marietta, Ga.).
Oh, by the way, Nkemdiche is only a junior. And the superb skills he’s shown at such a young age is why he’s arguably the top player in the country, regardless of class.
Not surprisingly, a number of the nation’s top college teams have taken notice. Nkemdiche is considering the likes of Mississippi (where his brother Denzel is a freshman defensive back), Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Miami, Florida, Florida State and Oregon, but he’s yet to narrow down his extensive list of offers.
Right now, he’s more focused on leading Grayson to a state title and is excited about the possibility of his mom, Beverly, watching one of his games this year. Beverly is a legislator in Nigeria and rarely has the opportunity to come home and watch her talented son play.
So what makes this man-child tick? It’s time to Get Familiar with Robert Nkemdiche.
ESPNHS: How has all the attention you’ve received impacted how teams treat you?
Nkemdiche: It’s different from last year. Teams scheme against me and double-team me. But it doesn’t frustrate me because my teammates are making plays. I get a whole bunch of attention. A lot of people say I’m the best player in the country. It’s awesome, and I’m trying to back it up on the field.
ESPNHS: How crazy did it get when coaches could start contacting you on Sept. 1?
Nkemdiche: I was getting phone calls and they were all messaging me on Facebook. But it didn’t bother me. I responded to a few of them. It’s cool to get to talk to coaches about the recruiting process.
ESPNHS: What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you during this process?
Nkemdiche: Different people have asked me for my autograph. But it isn’t anything new. Someone asked me for my autograph as a sophomore. That was crazy. Someone took pictures of me when I was a sophomore. I was hanging out with my friends and someone said, “That’s Robert Nkemdiche,” and starting taking pictures. It was awkward.
ESPNHS: Is your mom going to make it back for one of your games?
Nkemdiche: My mom is going to try to come to one of my games. She told on the phone. It was awesome when she told me that.
ESPNHS: How have you and your team dealt with being nationally ranked?
Nkemdiche: We’re just really working hard. We’re putting points on the board and the defense is stopping people. We’re rolling. It’s fun (getting to play running back). It shows off my athleticism.
School: Grayson (Loganville, Ga.)
POSITION: Defensive End
NICKNAMES: Hollywood, Pork Chop & Hulk
TV Show: “American Dad!”
Movie: “The Pursuit of Happyness”
Actor: Will Smith
Musical Artists: Lil Wayne & Big Sean
Athlete: Julius Peppers
Sneaker: Nike Air Max 2 CB
To read even more about Robert Nkemdiche, check out the cover story we did in the September Georgia issue of ESPNHS magazine.
NEXT UP: Grayson is off this week and will travel to play Shiloh (Snellville, Ga.) on Sept. 30.
Jon Mahoney covers football for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHIGHSCHOOL.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org to let him know which top high school football player he should Get Familiar with.