Quincy Enunwa’s Saturday daily double: A diploma and a call from the Jets.
By Randy York
When Quincy Enunwa chose Nebraska over Washington State, he had a simple goal – become the best student-athlete he could be. You can put a checkmark beside that goal as mission accomplished. The Economics major received his college diploma Saturday at UNL Commencement ceremonies in Lincoln and hours later, the wide receiver learned he was the sixth-round draft choice of the New York Jets. So check another box. Enunwa, a California dreamer, is now officially a Husker at heart. The new graduate made an interesting comment. “Look around,” he told The N-Sider. “Look at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Look at Memorial Stadium and everything that’s inside it. Look at all these graduates from a Big Ten Conference school. Everyone who comes through here knows Nebraska is a lot more than a bunch of cornfields.”
Nebraska is indeed the place that molded, measured and meant the world to a 6-foot-2, 225-pounder from Moreno Valley, Calif. How many know that Enunwa’s 51 receptions for 753 yards last season replaced Johnny “The Jet” Rodgers as NU’s single-season record holder with 12 touchdown catches? The last of those 12 was a pass from Tommy Armstrong that Enunwa converted into a 99-yard touchdown reception in Nebraska’s 24-19 Gator Bowl win over Georgia, a record that may someday be tied, but never broken. Enunwa’s career-high 129 yards receiving and two-touchdown day in Jacksonville will forever be woven into the hearts of Big Red fans everywhere.
Bo Pelini and Gator Bowl MVP Quincy Enunwa after two-TD performance.
‘You Can’t Beat the People Who Live Here’
“I love our fan base and I love the people who live in Nebraska,” Enunwa said after hosting an entourage of 15 who came to Lincoln to see him graduate, including his parents, aunts, uncles (including one from Nigeria), grandma, sister and girlfriend from Chicago. “You can’t beat the people who live here. They’re so kind and so friendly. When you walk across the street around here, everybody says hi. I feel blessed to be here, so I could learn what I needed to learn.
“I’ve grown up here in this culture,” Enunwa told me. “At the end of the day, everyone here wants to help you get better, whether it’s football, academics, or life skills. Being under Coach Bo and all of the others who have helped me and believed in me has prepared me for my next challenge. I know what it takes to make it in this world, and I’m ready right now to go out and prove it. Every person I’ve come across here has taught me something different. They’ve helped me grow up and be where I am now.”
The late Isaiah Casillas leads buddy Quincy (18) on fabled Tunnel Walk.
Team Jack Tunnel Walk Profound Experience
Ask Enunwa to pinpoint the most important lessons he’s learned and he responds immediately. “Hard work,” he said. “Never giving up, staying on top of things, and always giving 100 percent no matter what.” His life lessons don’t just come from coaches and administrators. Enunwa also learned from experiences that touched his heart and helped him realize how good it is to give back to those who have supported him. From hospice visits to hospital visits to Fan Day, Enunwa has embraced how others live and what they go through on a daily basis. Those experiences helped him develop a more compassionate perspective for the human condition and a more global perspective on life.
He will tell anyone the Team Jack Tunnel Walk was one of the most profound experiences of his life. “Quincy’s eyes light up when he talks about how inspiring it is to meet pediatric brain cancer patients like Jack Hoffman and Isaiah Casillas,” said Kim Schellpeper, an academic counselor who spoke at Saturday’s Graduation Luncheon on Memorial Stadium’s third floor. “Quincy played a small role in one of the most inspirational tunnel walks of all time, and that experience truly inspired him.”
Expectations were high with Quincy at pre-Gator Bowl Press Conference.
Experiences Set Enunwa on a Course to Serve
Despite the fact that little Isaiah lost his battle with brain cancer, Enunwa said he will always remember how happy Isaiah was to be a part of that tunnel walk and how nice it was to meet Isaiah’s family and friends. That experience alone was enough to convince Enunwa that he will continue to expand his commitment to helping others in the NFL.
“As an educator, I’ve always felt that college was the time in a young person’s life when you learn to find your own way, make your own decisions and begin to chart a path for the remainder of your life,” Schellpeper told me. “If this is true, then Quincy’s experiences have set him on a course that will better serve us all.”
The most critical part of a record 99-yard touchdown: Clearing the traffic.
Getting Diploma, Drafted on Same Day Big Deal
Heading into his senior season, Enunwa had 64 career catches. He was a three-time winner of the “Perimeter Warrior” award that’s based on a receiver’s effort in blocks, knockdowns and takedowns. Pelini tweeted his impressions of what the New York Jets got when they drafted Enunwa as the 209th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. “The Jets are lucky to get such a hard-working, dedicated player,” Pelini said.
Being the Offensive MVP of Nebraska’s 2013-14 team is a big deal for a wide receiver. So is being the MVP of a bowl win over a Southeast Conference Team. Add in the 99-yard touchdown reception and you think it can’t get much better than that. But Enunwa will always put another special day right up there with the others. “Getting your college diploma and getting drafted in the NFL within hours of each other has to rank right up there with anything,” he said. “My education was first and foremost to me since the day I committed to Nebraska.”
Once Enunwa eliminated congestion, it was a nonstop run to record pay dirt.
Enunwa Has No Doubts about Future Success
In conversations with Pittsburgh, Oakland and Miami, Enunwa was expecting to get drafted during the middle rounds, and he has no doubts about proving himself worthy of being the Jets’ third receiver drafted. “I’ll be successful because I know I’m better and will be better than what people think about me right now,” he said. “I’ll work harder than most people. I still have that chip on my shoulder that I had before my senior season. It hit me hard when I had to tell myself that I had to work harder than anybody else to get what I truly want. That isn’t going to change.”
Enunwa doesn’t want to be the only one applying pressure. “I’ve told everyone, even the youngest guys on the team coming back: ‘If they listen to Coach Bo and do what he expects them to do, they can achieve great things,’” he said. “They have to take the bull by the horns and get those young guys ready to play. I know I can be successful if I do what I have to do. I just have to choose the right path. The guys still here have the same choice. If they do what they’re supposed to do, they’ll be successful. They just need that chip on their shoulder. We all do!”
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