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Ohimor is determined to earn the accolades
WORCESTER — Off the field, Mude Ohimor may be mild-mannered. On the field? The Stoughton High product is anything but. A senior defensive end at Holy Cross, Ohimor has been tabbed the preseason Player of the Year by Patriot League coaches.
“I’d rather they give out awards at the end of the season,’’ said the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Ohimor. “I feel like I haven’t really done anything yet this season. It’s an honor that they think I’m going to do well this season, but I want to get out and actually live up to that.’’
Proving himself is no foreign concept to Ohimor. At the age of 13, he had to quell his parents’ concerns about the safety of the sport and whether the time commitment would affect his academics. Any apprehension has long since been squashed.
“They’re not even thinking twice about it now,’’ he said with a laugh. “They’re really into it.’’
Since opting for the gridiron over basketball, baseball, or soccer, Ohimor’s game has developed significantly. Relying on his size and the skills he developed in those other sports, his expanded football knowledge helped him capture first team all-Patriot League honors last season.
“He’s a lot more comfortable in his position, and he therefore doesn’t have to think as much anymore,’’ said Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore. “He can line up and look for different keys on any individual play that will help him perform at an even higher level. He’s definitely taken the level of his game up a couple of notches. Even in the last year, we’ve seen that — and it’s really fueled a lot of confidence in the way he plays the game.’’
Ohimor earned his reputation last season, recording a team-best seven sacks and 34 tackles (nine for losses) during the Crusaders’ run to their first league title since 1991.
“Year after year he’s competing, and he’s done a great job for us,’’ said senior wide receiver Luke Chmielinski, a Xaverian Brothers grad from Walpole. “He’s the best defensive player in the league. It’s an honor playing with him. He’s unbelievable. He’s one of those guys on the team that can definitely make it in the next level.’’
As seniors, Ohimor and Chmielinski hope to conclude their college careers with consecutive Patriot League championships and a return trip to the opening round of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
“I think we have all the pieces in place to be a great team both on offense and defense,’’ said Ohimor, one of five returning starters on defense. “We have a lot of experienced guys coming back at the skill positions on both sides of the ball.’’
Chmielinski is one of those seasoned skill-position players. From a four-wide set, the 5-foot-10, 188-pound receiver caught a team-leading 63 passes for 804 yards and four touchdowns as a junior. He led the Crusaders in all-purpose yards (846) and ranked fifth in the Patriot League in both receiving yards and catches, capturing second all-Patriot honors. In his career, he has 87 catches, 1,065 yards, and five touchdowns.
“I think we do as good a job as anyone exploiting defensive weaknesses and distributing the ball to the area where it should be,’’ said Gilmore. “That might not necessarily be Luke all the time. When he’s in that position, he has performed very well. I think people recognize his ability and what he’s been able to accomplish, but he’s not necessarily the featured guy all the time. His statistics may not really highlight his true abilities.’’
Chmielinski will be exploiting defenses with a new quarterback this season, with the graduation of three-time Walter Payton Award finalist Dominic Randolph. The offense lost a boatload of talent (1,244 pounds to be exact), and former Brockton High standout Andrew Jameson (6-foot-4, 323 pounds) hopes to seize the opportunity left by the graduation of four linemen.
“We’re hoping that Andrew continues to improve his game,’’ said Gilmore. “In Andrew’s defense, we had one of the best offensive lines that Holy Cross has had in decades last year. We had four guys that received all-league recognition on the line, and one of them is coming back. With those graduation losses, I think Andrew’s in a better position to move up the depth chart into a starting position or certainly get a lot more playing time.’’
Ohimor, Chmielinski, and Jameson are just three of 15 Massachusetts players on the roster. The Bay State has not been represented that highly in recent seasons, especially during lean years earlier this decade that included a 1-11 finish prior to Gilmore taking the helm.
“Guys are always talking about what state has the best football,’’ said Ohimor. “The guys from Ohio, Florida, Jersey, California — they claim they have the best football. You look at Holy Cross over the last few years, and you see a lot of Mass. guys stepping up and playing big roles. You kind of have to throw Mass. in there.’’
Living up to his reputation
By Ben Rohrbach, Boston Globe Correspondent