Madu Eneli had it figured out.
He was an outstanding athlete at Harker Heights. He was a starting linebacker and rotational running back for the football team this past fall, and he has also had quite a tennis career for the Knights.
That is rare.
In my time covering sports, I haven’t seen a football player excel in tennis — or even play tennis.
When I talked to Jerry Edwards about how tennis may be benefiting Eneli on the gridiron during football season, he felt it definitely had a positive influence in regard to his footwork.
You could see it on the field.
At weakside linebacker, Eneli could float from sideline to sideline with ease, he could attack the line of scrimmage and, most importantly at that position, he could change direction at a whim.
Where his footwork had its biggest influence, however, was out of the backfield.
At 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 192 pounds, Eneli wasn’t the biggest back. But he was very stout and ran bigger than he actually was.
Eneli had the ability to shift direction with the ball while keeping his shoulders square and upfield, and he could run through defenders to pick up a few extra yards or bust into the second level and into the secondary.
Eneli was a fluid athlete on the football field, and it was a pleasure to watch. But he’s also one of the most intelligent student-athletes I’ve ever been around.
Post-game interviews with Eneli were a treat. His answers were always well thought out, genuine and crisp. His pronunciation was perfect, as well.
It’s sometimes a tough task to decide what kids to interview after a victory, and Eneli made it even harder.
I had to force myself to interview other kids after Harker Heights wins, and that’s no slight to any of them. Eneli’s performance always warranted an interview, and the ease he spoke with made him a clear choice.
That has also never happened to me in my career. I’ve never, ever had to resist interviewing the same kid each time.
Academics were most important to Eneli, and it was no surprise to hear that he received a full academic scholarship to attend Ohio State. After all, he wrote his own book in middle school.
Eneli is an example all student-athletes, and even some adults, can look up to.