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Nov 12, 2022

Ruke Orhorhoro | Uncommon Path

By: Jere Drummond

Note: The following appears in the Louisville football gameday program.

Ruke Orhorhoro burst onto the college football scene in 2021 and has built upon his success this season while playing in a loaded defensive tackle room. He is primed to be an NFL draft pick.

Orhorhoro’s unique journey to Clemson is unlike any of his fellow teammates’.

“I was born in Nigeria and lived there for two years. We then moved to Birmingham in the United Kingdom. After my mom passed, my dad dropped everything and picked us up, and we moved to Michigan.”

After moving to Michigan, Orhorhoro fell in love with the game of basketball.

“I’ve loved basketball ever since moving here…I played throughout middle and high school. I met a coach named ‘Coach Bill,’ and he taught me the roots of basketball. He took me under his wing and also taught me about life.

“I started as a freshman on the varsity team and averaged a double-double. I then transferred to River Rouge, where ‘Coach Bill’ got a job. I kept averaging a double-double, and during my sophomore year, we made it to the state championship game.

“Coach Parker came up to me and told me to try out for the football team. The first day I went out, I was playing wide receiver for a day, but I couldn’t catch. So they moved me to tight end, but I did not want to block. They then moved me to outside linebacker, and that’s where I got a feel for the defense.”

Orhorhoro’s talent on the gridiron was undeniable as soon as he found his home in the defensive trenches. Orhorhoro earned his first scholarship offer just three weeks into playing football.

“Coach (Brent) Venables and I connected on the phone and pretty much recruited me to Clemson. Until that point, I had never even heard of Clemson…I had only played as them in video games. Some of my high school coaches brought me down to Clemson, and I fell in love with the place and Coach (Dabo) Swinney and his program.”

Orhorhoro was labeled as a defensive end by most of the recruiting services, but he knew if he went to Clemson, he would move inside. Orhorhoro bought into the process and developed into an elite interior defensive lineman.

“I was bought in from the start. I knew God had a plan for me, and when they told me to move inside, I was probably 250 pounds. So I started eating a lot at Paw Bistro. I looked up and I was 270 pounds, and I knew could move inside and be successful.

“During my first day of practice, I lined up against John Simpson and Jackson Carman. I thought to myself, ‘How am I going to do this?’ I bought in, and Tyler Davis, who is the smartest person I know, helped me out with the playbook.”

Orhorhoro, who graduated in only three years with a degree in sociology, now plays for a former Clemson defensive lineman (Nick Eason), who is now the Tiger defensive tackles coach. Eason brings a plethora of knowledge to a vaunted position group.

“Coach Eason is my guy…I love him. He has impacted my life in a big way. He played and coached in the NFL and has great character. He has always shot it to me straight and took me under his wing. I love learning from people who have been there before. He has been there and was very successful.”

Orhorhoro’s favorite memory so far at Clemson has been his first college game.

“The atmosphere was crazy. I had an adrenaline rush all game and messed up on my first snap, because I was lost in the moment.”

When Orhorhoro is not in the opponents’ backfields, you can find him playing the sport of basketball, his first love. In a press conference earlier this season, Orhorhoro referred to himself as “LeBron James” and claimed that he is the best basketball player on the Tiger football squad.

“I am without a doubt the best basketball player on the team, and it is not even close. I only can beat myself. My game is more like Steph Curry now. I probably would make 98 out of 100 three-point attempts.”

Orhorhoro is a prime example of the culture at Clemson, as he has bought into the process and has become a key player on the 2022 defensive line.