Nigerian roots at heart of Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike drive for success in NFL

Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike doesn’t know what’ll be on the menu when his family gathers for the NFL Draft on Thursday night.

Maybe a few Nigerian specialties such as fried plantains or a soup his mom has made for years.

“But,” Madubuike said, laughing, “if I’m feeling pizza, we may just do pizza.” TOP ARTICLES 00:02 / 00:14 SKIP AD

Regardless of the spread, Madubuike is excited to watch and celebrate the next chapter of his football journey unfold with his family. After all, Madubuike (pronounced MAD-uh-bee-kay) means “my family is my strength.”

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“Family is everything in Nigerian culture,” said Madubuike, who is the second oldest of four children.

“We’re very proud and very loving and very determined people who have certain expectations for our siblings and children. We have a certain respect and moral code, so being Nigerian is definitely a prideful thing.”

Madubuike hopes to become the next Nigerian standout in the NFL, believing he has the tools to make an immediate impact. The 6-foot-3, 293-pound defensive tackle believes he is a first-round talent in this year’s draft class.

The NFL feels he has a chance to be taken highly, too, as Madubuike is one of 58 prospects who will participate in the NFL Draft virtually. He’s met virtually with a number of teams, including the Dallas Cowboys, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers, Philadelphia Eagles and Atlanta Falcons.

“I believe I’m a first-round pick, no doubt,” Madubuike said. “I feel my stats speak for themselves. I feel my versatility on the defensive line speaks for itself. I feel I can definitely go to a team and start and produce immediately.”

Madubuike has produced at every level he’s played at. As a junior at McKinney North High School, he had 35 tackles for loss, including 16.5 sacks. He closed his prep career with 29 tackles for loss, including 13 sacks, as a senior and headed to Texas A&M as a four-star prospect.

At A&M, Madubuike had an impressive sophomore season in 2018, finishing with 40 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Last season, he led the team in TFLs (11.5) and sacks (5.5) and declared for the draft.

“I felt like I had nothing left that I wanted to accomplish,” Madubuike said.

Madubuike has since been focused on boosting his draft stock as much as possible. He had a standout performance at the combine, running a 4.83-second 40-yard dash and repping the 225-pound bench press 31 times.

More than what he did at college and the combine, though, Madubuike believes his best playing days are ahead of him.

As The Athletic’s NFL Draft analyst Dane Brugler said, “Overall, Madubuike isn’t a refined player right now, but he is a power-packed athlete with twitched-up muscles to win the point of attack, projecting as a three-technique tackle with upside.”

Added Madubuike: “I haven’t even started scratching the surface of how great of a player I can be. I played well at A&M, but it’s not who I really am yet. It gives me more room to improve.”

That is why one of the 32 teams is going to view Madubuike as a big-time prospect, potentially worthy of a first-round pick. It’s more likely Madubuike hears his name called in the second round, but the draft is known for its unpredictability.

Madubuike projects at a premium position in the NFL these days as a three-technique defensive tackle with the ability to create an inside pass rush.

“Justin is so physical, so twitchy, so strong, and I say at times violent,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said in a video posted by the school. “He has the ability to create so much leverage with his athleticism. He can bend. He can run. Great pass rush skills inside. I think he’ll have a great pro career.”
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