Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
LOGAN -- His biography in the Aggie media guide lists an impressive array of accomplishments, testifying to the still burgeoning career of one of the school's greatest linebackers of all-time.
There is of course the distinction of earning freshman All-American accolades during the 2006 season, an honor he holds in addition to having been named the WAC Freshman of the Year during his rookie campaign. A member of the Lombardi Award Watch List for 2009 and the Butkus Award Watch List during 2008, Igboeli was named second-team all-WAC last year, and was a consensus all-conference selection by numerous preseason publications heading into the 2009 season.
Indeed, Igboeli has done almost everything a linebacker can do while in college, and because of that, he can look forward to a likely future of playing on Sundays in the National Football League. But for everything the 6-0, 230-pound outside linebacker has accomplished on the field in Logan, it is what he has not done which drives him in his pursuit to become one of the most feared defenders in the WAC.
Lead his team to a winning season.
"This is my last year, and we seniors just want to leave a good stamp for Coach Andersen to start off with and a good stamp for us to end off with," says Igboeli, his eyes lighting up with the mere mention of leading the Aggie defense to a winning season. "All us seniors, we want to do it for Coach Andersen and we want to do it for ourselves too. So it gives us double motivation."
While he has been highly successful on the field during each of the past three seasons, Igboeli is expecting even bigger things in 2009. With the arrival of former Utah defensive coordinator Gary Andersen as head coach at Utah State, the Aggies have seen a resurgence in energy and enthusiasm for the program not experienced since John L. Smith guided the 1997 team to the Humanitarian Bowl. For Igboeli, who is rapidly climbing the charts in the Utah State record books in terms of total tackles, the chance to play under a defensive genius like Andersen is a dream come true.
"I love it," says Igboeli of Andersen's defense, which ranked Utah fifth in the country in scoring defense in 2008. Andersen served as defensive coordinator for five seasons at Utah, helping guide the Utes to a Sugar Bowl rout of Alabama to cap off a 13-0 record last season. Known as a defensive "guru," Andersen has been helping Igboeli to take advantage of his greatest asset as a defender - controlled aggression.
"Coach understands me, and I've had coaches in the past who haven't really understood me because I can be a little wild," explains the senior linebacker. "But he wants me to control [my aggressiveness], and at the same time he wants me not to lose that edge. He wants me to try to find a happy medium basically, because for a long time I played just kind of angry and vivacious at the same time."
For all his aggressiveness on the field, Igboeli remains one of the premier leaders on Utah State's defense, and was named a defensive team captain prior to the opening game against Utah. Andersen, who has coached several current NFL players, says the honor and all accolades bestowed upon Igboeli are well deserved.
"Paul is a very intense young man," says the first year head coach. "He is very caring and family oriented, and he is a young man who wants to be great at the game of football, which has become very important to him over the last six months. He's one of our leaders and team captains."
With that honor comes greater responsibility for Igboeli, whose job in the new defense is to not only make tackles and sacks, but to make sure that the unit's front seven are lined up correctly. Linebackers coach Kevin Clune, who calls Igboeli "one of the fastest and strongest linebackers I have ever coached," says that the first two layers of the Aggie defense are set up for the high-impact senior captain to thrive.
"There are many opportunities for Paul to be making plays in this defense," says Clune. "A lot of things are funneled to him and a lot of things are supposed to come his way. He should be a guy who is around every pile, and should be in on or around every tackle. More than that he has got to be the leader of the front seven as far as making the checks and corrections and getting people in the right place, and helping to make this whole defense run efficiently."
As for the possibility of playing professionally, Clune says that Igboeli still has work to do, but that he has all the tools to play -- and star -- in the NFL.
"He still hasn't reached his top potential yet, but if he does he will attract some scouts and will be playing for a lot longer," Clune said. "It's not just about this year, but it's about moving on to the next step."
Igboeli and the Aggies host in-state foe Southern Utah on Saturday, Sept. 26. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. (MT) at USU's Romney Stadium. Saturday is not only USU's home opener but it is USU's Homecoming as well.
All Utah State football games are carried live on KVNU 610 AM and KLZX 95.9 FM in Logan; 1230 AM in Salt Lake City; on KLZX 105.3 FM in Montpelier, Idaho, and on the Internet at www.UtahStateAggies.com by clicking on "Listen Live." Al Lewis handles the play-by-play duties and Craig Hislop provides analysis.
For season and single-game ticket information, contact the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305, or online 24 hours a day at www.UtahStateAggies.com and clicking on the "buy/renew tickets" under the "tickets" drop down menu.