Praise Martin-Oguike's life back on track

Praise Martin-Oguike has a second chance. A second chance to be a standout football player for the Temple University football team. A second chance to continue his education. A second chance to make the name for himself he expected when he became an Owl in 2011.

Praise Martin-Oguike has a second chance.

A second chance to be a standout football player for the Temple University football team.

A second chance to continue his education.

A second chance to make the name for himself he expected when he became an Owl in 2011.

Martin-Oguike was charged with rape in May 2012 and suspended from school and the team, though he declared his innocence.

As his case was set to go to trial in October 2013, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office dropped the charges after text messages on the accuser’s cell phone showed she fabricated her story and her relationship with Martin-Oguike was consensual.

While Martin-Oguike was cleared, he missed out on three semesters of classes at Temple – he enrolled at Middlesex County College – and two seasons of football. Against the advice of many close to him, Martin-Oguike chose to continue his education at Temple and career with the Owls.

After re-joining the program in the spring as a defensive end – he was a linebacker his freshman year – he has impressed enough that he is challenging for a starting spot.

“I knew coming back I could trust Coach (Matt) Rhule, it’s the reason I came back to Temple and didn’t take everyone else’s advice and go someplace else,” said Martin-Oguike. “He made it very comfortable for me to come back and feel at home, and it’s been everything I expected.

“A lot of people were telling me to go somewhere else, but I didn’t feel that was best for me. They thought Temple did me wrong, but it was more of an individual. Coming back to Temple was the best choice for me. School policy is to suspend you until everything settles down, so I didn’t have a problem with that. I had more of a problem with the (legal) system, not the school. When I came back it was like I never left.”

Rhule said he didn’t feel the need to say anything more to Martin-Oguike when he returned than that he was a player in good standing again.

“I just know him as a kid and he’s been great since he’s been back,,” said Rhule. “He came in the first day, it was the first time I talked to him, and I said ‘Praise, there’s your locker, get going’ and he’s just like everybody else. If he’s late in the morning he runs, and if he isn’t everything is fine.

“He’s a football guy. He loves football. He doesn’t always like the other things like conditioning and lifting, but he loves football. He’s been great. and he’s been bringing some heat off the edge which we need.”

Defensive coordinator Phil Snow admitted the Woodbridge, N.J. native exceeded his expectations after two years away from the game.

“He would have had a bigger transition at linebacker,” said Snow. “Playing that end he had a natural feel for it. He did pretty good … I was shocked how well he did, and he ended up starting at the end of spring.”

Martin-Oguike said he stayed in shape the best he could during his time away, lifting, playing basketball and doing some football drills with friends. He didn’t know what to expect when he returned.

“Especially switching to a different position, I was just taking it one step at a time,” said Martin-Oguike. “It’s been good so far. There’s been a lot of good competition, and I’m trying to get that starting spot.

“At first it was a little challenging making the switch, but it’s best for the team. We needed a lot of pass rush because that’s what we were lacking last year. Coach told me my get-off is really good, so that’s going to help me, especially at the next level. I got a lot stronger when I was back home.”

Martin-Oguike said he has tried not to be bitter or hold any grudges.

“It’s always there, but that’s not the way I was brought up,” he said. “If you hold it inside, it will only hurt you. I was never worried (about being convicted), just frustrated it was taking so long (to be cleared).”

Since Martin-Oguike missed two seasons, he is listed as  a redshirt junior, but he said he has already written a letter to the NCAA asking to be considered for a sixth year of eligibility. Whether he is granted the year or not, he is as dedicated as ever to reach his goal of playing professionally.

“I’ve been missing (football) for two years, I’m really hyped to be back out there,” said Martin-Oguike. “(The NFL) has always been my goal, and I’m going to go get it.”

Back with the Owls, the dreams that were put on hold are once again as clear as ever.

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