Raul Dominguez Jr. Express-News Staff Writer
Publication: San Antonio Express-News
Date: December 19, 1991
Dr. Dike N. and Carolyn Kalu may not know much about football, but they know what they like. After living most of their lives in Nigeria, the couple doesn’t really understand why their son Ndukwe (N.D.) Kalu will pound an opponent to the ground. Yet they know when the Marshall defensive end does that, it’s good. The Kalus are hoping for more good things when Marshall faces Odessa Permian for the regular 5A championship at 3 p.m. Saturday at Texas Stadium in Irving.
“He explains everything to us,” the elder Kalu said. “When he comes home after a game I tell him to explain everything to me. When we are watching a game on television, I tell him, ‘He’s holding him down, why does he hit him again?’ He tells me that’s part of the game. I ask him, ‘Did you have to hold him down?’ And he tells me he has to keep him from running some more. I didn’t think the game was exciting at first, but the more you understand it, the more you get hooked.” And the more they watch their son play, the more they understand that he is doing well.
Dike and his wife came to the United States from Abiriba, Nigeria in 1971 after he accepted a fellowship to Johns Hopkins University. N.D. Kalu was born in Baltimore in 1975, but was raised in San Antonio after his father accepted a position as professor of psychology at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Dike was a good soccer player and that influenced his son to take up the sport as a youth. His desire turned to football when he reached middle school, but his parents couldn’t understand why. “I didn’t want him to play,” Mr. Kalu said. “I knew football was a very physical game. In soccer, you try to avoid contact. In football, you purposely try to hit someone. It is still very strange to us.” But N.D.’s mind was set and he tried everything before eventually getting his parents’ permission.
“I begged my parents to let me play,” Kalu said. “It wasn’t that they didn’t understand the sport, but they thought it was too rough. Especially my mom. She didn’t want me to get hurt. One of my friend’s mother had to talk my mom into letting me play.”
Although his parents were concerned about his safety, the fact that N.D. was bigger than most of the other players put them at ease. N.D.’s size came from old-fashioned ingenuity. “I always wanted a weight set when I was little, but my parents wouldn’t get me one,” N.D. said. “So I broke off a broom stick and put two bricks on it. When I first started lifting weights, it was because I wanted to be fit and look good. After I started playing football, I lifted weights because I needed the strength.”
After playing tailback and linebacker in middle school, N.D. moved to strong saftey as a freshman at Marshall.
N.D. was moved to defensive end after being called up to the varsity team for the Rams 1989 playoff run. He saw action in Marshall’s 31-7 win over McCollum in bi-district. “I was very scared,” Kalu said. “I just ran around and got in on one sack.”
N.D. remained at defensive end the following season as the only sophomore starting for Marshall. “I’m pretty skinny for that position,” N.D. said. “(Carl) Junek and (Crague) Canion helped me out a bunch. Especially Carl, he is a real leader out there.” The success he enjoyed as a sophomore has grown in N.D.’s junior season. N.D. has picked up 10 sacks and has blocked six passes this season. His biggest play this season came Saturday during Marshall’s 20-13 win over Aldine in the regular 5A state semifinals. With Aldine deep in Marshall territory, N.D. intercepted an option pitch from Mustang quarterback Eric Gray and raced 81 yards for the Rams’ first touchdown. “I knew I was going to intercept even before the play,” N.D. said. “I don’t know why, but I just knew. But I didn’t think I was going to score.” As N.D. ran down the field, Aldine receiver Billy Steptoe chased after him. Steptoe was considered one of the fastest players in Houston, but he couldn’t catch the “Nigerian Nightmare,” as N.D. is called. “I looked back and I saw someone coming,” N.D. said. “I saw his number and I knew he was fast so I just turned it on. Now I know how Anthony (Holmes) and Carlos (Reza) feel when they score.”
Dike was in the stands cheering his son as he has in every one of his games. After Saturday’s game, N.D. said he doesn’t expect his father to ask any questions, but he may have to answer some. “I can’t believe how much he has picked up,” N.D. said. “At the beginning of the year, he did not know anything about the game, but now he’s telling me stuff I don’t know. I think he’s reading a book when I’m not around.”