Iyiegbuniwe answers the call to WKU

South Warren High School linebacker Joel Iyiegbuniwe talks to the media after signing with WKU on National Signing Day this Wednesday. (Luke Franke for the HERALD)

Elliott Pratt

Before the phone rang, Joel Iyiegbuniwe had no intentions of playing high school football. He played in middle school only to prepare himself physically for basketball season. But after the phone rang — several times — the man more popularly known as “Iggy” changed his mind. His life would also change.

South Warren High School Athletic Director Chris Decker coached Iyiegbuniwe at Drakes Creek Middle School and saw the potential in his young player. All he had to do was call Iyiegbuniwe enough times to convince him to move so he could become a multi-sport athlete in high school.

“I knew what kind of athlete he was and I knew what kind of football player he was,” Decker said. We were starting our program here and we needed to get as many athletes as we could to get it going. He was one of the first to pop in my mind.”

Four years later, Iyiegbuniwe’s name was leaping off of stat sheets and into the recruiting circuit as one of Kentucky’s best linebackers. On Wednesday, he and teammate Adrian Middleton became the first players at South Warren High School to sign on to play Division-I football – Iyiegbuniwe with WKU, and Middleton to Kentucky.

Iyiegbuniwe will graduate high school ranked as the No. 12 prospect in Kentucky according to 247Sports.com. He was also rated the No. 150 safety prospect in the country by Scout.com. Iyiegbuniwe said his strongest suit is to play linebacker, but he’s not ruling out the possibility of playing at strong safety for the Toppers.

“It feels good finally getting the paper work done,” Iyiegbuniwe said. “To finally be officially welcomed into the Western family is a great feeling.”

As a junior in 2012, Iyiegbuniwe recorded 64 tackles, three interceptions and four touchdowns. His senior year was cut short as South Warren, a school only in it’s third year of existence, advanced all the way to the KHSAA 3A quarterfinals. Iyiegbuniwe came down with an infection in his pelvic bone that sidelined him for a majority of the year. In only four games, he recorded 23 tackles, one interception and six touchdowns.

“It was a complicated deal,” Iyiegbuniwe said. “The doctors didn’t know how it happened and I didn’t know how it happened. As far as now, my body is great. I’m lifting, I’m running, I’m dunking. Everything is fine.”

His mother, Abiola Iyiegbuniwe, said her family stayed strong through the process, calling her son “determined” and “strong-willed”. To see his work pay off in this fashion, she said, is something they have dreamed of.

“When the infection came in, we stayed together as a family and prayed to God that everything went well,” she said. “It was a battle. Today is a very special day because this is the first time we’ve done something like this as a family.”

According to his rivals.com profile, Iyiegbuniwe also had offers from Indiana State and Purdue. Even through the coaching changes, he said from day one, his commitment was to a school, not a coach.

“Me, Nacarius (Fant) and the other guys wanted to stay,” Iyiegbuniwe said. “We didn’t just want to run off. We had committed to Western. I think it was important for us to stay and show our loyalty to the program.”