Onyeka leads Hawk defence into must-win game

Mathew McCarthy
Photo: Mathew McCarthy, Waterloo Region Record

Christine Rivet
Waterloo Region Record
WATERLOO — That football assembly line at Wilfrid Laurier University spit out a pair CFL first-round draft picks earlier this year.

All-star defenders Chris Ackie and Ese Mrabure-Ajufo received their quality assurance stickers and have taken their considerable talents and team-leading ways to the Montreal Alouettes and B.C. Lions, respectively.

So now, like they do every year, it’s time for a new generation of Golden Hawks to roll off the line.

Third-year linebacker Nakas Onyeka, who pilots the Hawks into Friday night’s must-win match against the Ottawa Gee-Gees at Laurier’s University Stadium, is one of them.

The frenetic Brampton native leads his team in tackles (6.2 per game) and pep talks (incalculable) this season.

“I like to think I bring energy to our team. I’m a hard worker and I can liven the guys up,” said Onyeka, who figures there is a horde of Hawk defensive leaders this year.

That might be so, but anytime head coach Michael Faulds is bombarded with team chatter, there’s always one primary source.

“Whether he is in the weight room or on the practice field, (Nakas) is the voice you hear the most. He flies around and tries to increase the energy of everyone around him,” Faulds said.

Just how do the Hawks keep pumping out star defensive players one after the other, year after year?

The Hawk coaches don’t ram square pegs into round holes, said Onyeka, majoring in communications at Laurier.

“There are a lot of systems out there who tell you that you are a part of it or you are not in it. The thing that makes us different is our coaches all try to focus on what makes us good and play to our strengths.”

Laurier’s defenders will have their hands full with Ottawa’s air assault.

Gee-Gees quarterback Derek Wendel leads the league with a mind-boggling 415 passing yards average per game.

He shredded Carleton’s defence with a school-record 542 yards in last week’s Panda Game, a 48-45 double-overtime loss for Ottawa.

“Wendel slings it like no other,” said Onyeka, 21, whose cousin Godfrey Onyeka is a defensive back with the Hawks. “We know it’s going to be a shootout.”

And Laurier’s defence will be ready, Nakas said, especially considering the Hawks’ offence is starting to roll.

Although the team’s quarterbacks Eric Morelli and James Fracas are both banged up, Laurier’s tailback Dillion Campbell is starting to turn on the jets after a slower than usual start.

Campbell set the school’s career rushing record last week against Waterloo, a massive 3,069 yards.

“When the offence is on the field, we usually do our defensive meetings on the sidelines,” said Nakas. “You will see guys peeking over their shoulder to see what (Campbell) will do next. Is it a stiff-arm or a hurdle?

“Watching him is a big morale boost.”

Both Laurier and Ottawa, currently tied with Toronto for the OUA’s sixth and final playoff berth, desperately need a win to help their post-season hopes.

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