Athlete of the Week: Sonora’s Uche Anusiem leads on and off the field
By Nathan Percy
La Habra Journal
With an injury forcing out Sonora’s leading tackler Salvador Chavez, senior cornerback Uche Anusiem had a big role to fill this past Friday in his team’s 34-20 loss to Canyon.
Before Friday’s game, Uche was second on the team in total tackles through two games. After recording 14 solo tackles and 17 overall against the Comanches, Chavez and the rest of the defense will have to work extremely hard if they plan to catch up anytime soon.
“We were facing a tough rushing attack and he was called on to make tackles and did a great job,” said Paul Chiotti, Raiders head coach. “The interception he made was huge and he also had a brilliant kickoff return. He did a tremendous job in stepping up and I think it showed his talent and ability.”
Both the fourth-quarter interception and the 50-yard kickoff return led to Sonora touchdowns. He also deflected a pass at the goal line that took away a Canyon touchdown.
Uche credits mental preparation before the game as a big key in his success so far this season.
“It starts with reading the playbook,” Uche said. “Once you get into the game it’s reading the keys and if the play breaks down, fight the block and make the tackle or if the ball is in the air, go and attack it…. Anything that helps a win, we’re just trying to get the offense the ball,”
Uche started his varsity days midway through his sophomore year, the same year Sonora made it to the CIF-SS Southwest Division semifinals. He recalls the run as a special experience and strives to help this year’s team reach that same experience.
A big component to that year’s team was another senior cornerback, Michael Servantes, whom Uche looked up to, and said that he had a big impact on his game and how he prepared when it came time to start.
In addition, LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu has been an influence on the way Uche approaches the game.
“He [Mathieu] played with tenacity and was always around the ball, when he was dismissed it was a downfall for me,” Uche said. “Michael was a three-year letterman and the coaches still talk about him. When he was here, I wanted to be like him.”
In addition to his efforts on the field, Uche puts in a solid effort in the classroom, maintaining a 3.05 GPA. His favorite subject is government.
It’s been the combination of these efforts that have drawn interest from Sacramento State University and Occidental College, with the possibility that more offers could be on the way.
But for now, Uche is focused on helping the team win on the field, but his tenacity doesn’t just turn on and off on Fridays.
However, when he has some free time, Uche prefers to hang out with his friends and teammates and play video games.
“He’s definitely loved by his teammates, he gets along with everyone,” Chiotti said. “The thing about him is that he always wants to go up against the best, he doesn’t just show up on Fridays, he wants to hit everyday in practice and challenge our best receivers. Those are the things he’s done daily, he works hard, he’s definitely talented and it shows.”