By David Knox, Sports Editor
TRUSSVILLE – It was just a spring game, but Noah Igbinoghene wasn’t having any of it.
His Hewitt-Trussville Huskies were primed to score a touchdown in their game against Minor when a running back had the ball knocked away from him by a Tenacious Tiger defender.
The Minor defender scooped up the ball and saw nothing but Husky Stadium green turf for the 100 yards ahead of him.
By the time the Huskies realized what had happened, the Tiger was barreling into Hewitt territory.
But Igbinoghene is pretty fast. And pretty determined.
The track star blazed from behind to haul down the unsuspecting Tiger at the Hewitt 5.
“I don’t know where that came from,” Igbinoghene said. “Honestly, I just saw him running and I thought I could catch him and I did. Just wanted to give the defense a chance to get the ball back.”
Igbinoghene, the AAU national champion in the triple jump, runs the 100 dash and is a long jumper for coach David Dobbs’ Huskies, is that kind of athlete and that kind of person. Dedicated, disciplined and determined. There’s no quit in Noah.
And though he’s a 4.4 guy in the 40, it’s doing the little things, the overlooked things, the unselfish things that make him a lot more than a fast wide receiver.
Coach Josh Floyd loves having a fast football player. That’s a “HuskyFast” given.
But, Floyd said, “Another thing I like about him is he’s just a physical player. That’s actually how he won the job as a sophomore, with his blocking ability. It wasn’t because he was a great receiver. He was blocking his tail off as a sophomore. He does all those things, like the play in the spring game. You can see his highlight film several times where he’s blocking kids.
“I just think he’s a complete player. He’s not a selfish kid. If he’s not getting the ball, he’s not taking the play off. He’s actually trying to help his team win the game.”
Igbinoghene, now 6-feet and 194 pounds, has seen his stock rise since the spring game and summer 7on7 play. He is now a four-star prospect and has narrowed his list to Duke, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Missouri and Maryland. He calls Duke and Notre Dame “co-leaders” but also says that list could change. Wherever he goes, he will be a two-sport athlete; he’s not leaving track behind.
The son of Olympians – dad was a jumper and mom a sprinter for Nigeria — football was not his first love. Mostly it was running and soccer. By the seventh grade, though, he got the itch to play football.
“I felt like I needed to play,” he said. “In seventh grade I wasn’t that good because I hadn’t been playing since I was a little kid like the rest of these guys. My mom wasn’t so happy about it but my dad encouraged me to do it. He thought I’d be big enough.”
As a junior, he racked up almost 1,000 all-purpose yards. He caught 33 passes for 522 yards and seven touchdowns, added another 151 rushing yards on 25 carries, and had 194 return yards on nine kickoff returns.
“I think based on last year before the spring game, before the summer, recruiters thought I was just a straight-line speed guy, they didn’t think I can do all the stuff I did in the spring game. So I think that really helped interest in my recruiting.”
In the spring, Igbinoghene played some running back. Floyd knew he needed to get him the ball.
“I think the thing we’re going to do with him this year is we’re going to give him the ball more in the backfield,” Floyd said prior to the opener at Montgomery Bell. “He showed in the spring game that he can do that. We’ve just got to get him the ball in the open field. It’s not about just throwing the deep routes all the time.”
Floyd did just that in the opener. Running from the wildcat formation, Igbinoghene took the snap and raced around left end for a 38-yard TD run that gave the Huskies the lead they wouldn’t give back.
He finished with nine catches for 67 yards and another 78 yards on six touches. He also returned three kickoffs for 73 yards.
“He can make people miss in space,” Floyd said. “I think that’s something you can’t really teach. There are a lot of guys that are fast. … and he’s had to overcome this (stigma) because people know he’s a track guy, so the question is he just a straight-ahead guy, and a lot of track guys are, but he’s not.
“All you’ve got to do is watch his highlight film. He’s a guy that can make people miss in the open field and, again, I can’t teach that. College coaches at Alabama and Auburn can’t teach that. That’s just something that he was born with.”
Igbinoghene’s speed, elusiveness and physicality make him a difficult matchup for defenses.
Quarterback Connor Adair said his teammate’s ability to get open and run good routes is one of his strengths. The wide receiver agrees. “I’m not perfect catching, but I’m continuing to work on that and want to make that my ultimate strength. And put all that together with running good routes and getting open.”
Floyd said no matter how good Igbinoghene is today, just wait.
“I think he’s still just very raw and green,” Floyd said. “He’s only 16 years old. I feel like he’s just scratching the surface of what he’s going to be. His best days are ahead of him at the next level.”