The Notre Dame pipeline from St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham Hall continues with athlete James Onwualu. One part football player, one part Swiss Army knife, Onwualu will enter Notre Dame as a wide receiver, but has the skillset capable to play multiple positions on either side of the football. One of the earliest commitments to the Irish, Onwualu also earned his keep on the recruiting trail, helping to build the Irish’s heralded ’13 recruiting class.
St. Paul, Minnesota
Measureables: 6-foot-1, 203-pounds
Accolades: First-team All-State running back, AP and MN Football Coaches. Four-star recruit Rivals, ESPN. All-State running back/wide receiver/defensive back by St. Paul Pioneer Press. Led conference scoring with 116 points.
Impressive Offers: Cal, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State, Stanford, UCLA, Wisconsin
Projected Position: Outside wide receiver (for now)
Quick Take: Signed to play the outside receiver position for the Irish, Onwualu was a true offensive hybrid player at CDH, dominant as a receiver, running back, return man and safety. With natural size and speed (Onwualu trained daily, but never lifted weights), he was a powerful player that’ll only get bigger, stronger and faster now that he’s in a collegiate training program. Drastically improved from junior to senior season.
Dangerous with the ball in his hands, even if he doesn’t have elite top-end speed. Could transition to the slot, playing a hybrid role of runner and catcher. Could also play his way to the defensive side of the ball, with cover skills, quickness and physicality needed to play boundary corner or safety. (Think Bennett Jackson without the track speed.)
What it means for the Irish roster: With strong intangibles off the field, Onwualu was an early offer by the Irish coaching staff, even if they needed to do a little projecting. But the faith in Onwualu paid off and his game not only developed on the field, he became another recruiter for the Irish off the field. Onwualu logged a ton of miles during the offseason, a regular at just about every camp or recruiting combine in the Midwest. With depth at running back and wide receiver not overflowing, finding a place for Onwualu should be easy enough. Developing in a ready-made high school program, and enrolling early, might help him onto the field sooner than later as well.
Obligatory YouTube highlight tape: These are highlights from James’ senior season. You can find another link here, but the quality isn’t as good. (And it’s missing the awesome music.)