River Rouge’s Ruke Orhorhoro picked Clemson over Michigan because it ‘felt like home’

By David Goricki
The Detroit News
Ruke Orhorhoro

River Rouge coach Corey Parker couldn’t spell the last name of a player he believed would be a force when he took a seat at the Fowling Warehouse last July to promote the season-opening Prep Kickoff Classic. He just said to keep an eye on “Ruke,” who would be playing football for the first time.

Parker knew what he was talking about regarding Ruke Orhorhoro who, at the time, was a 6-foot-5, 220-pound junior defensive end. The River Rouge coaches talked Orhorhoro into playing football after he helped the Panthers reach the state semifinals in basketball his sophomore year.

Orhorhoro then went out and got four sacks in a Week 2 game against Detroit Cody. He went on to finish with 76 tackles, 28 tackles for loss, including 20 sacks, and that led to more than two dozen college scholarship offers.

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Orhorhoro narrowed his choices to Michigan, Clemson, Kentucky and Indiana before picking Clemson, the 2016 national champions, after taking a visit to the ACC school last Wednesday and Thursday. He also had offers from Michigan State, Penn State and Oregon, among others.

“Football has always been my first love even though I never played it before last year,” Orhorhoro told The Detroit News on Monday. “I found out last year that hard work pays off, that what you put in is what you get out. So every practice, every weight room, even in the classroom, I put everything I had into them. I really want to thank my teammates, my position coach Lonnie Burkes and my head coach Corey Parker for instilling in me hard work, how to do things the right way.”

No doubt, Orhorhoro got serious in the weight room and is now at 271 pounds.

“I eat a lot of peanut butter,” Orhorhoro joked. “I do 300 push-ups and 300 sit-ups before I go to sleep, eat the biggest peanut butter and jelly sandwich ever with a cup of chocolate milk.”

Orhorhoro attended Taylor Trillium Academy his freshman year — a school that didn’t have a football team – before transferring to River Rouge.

“I never played organized football before, but wanted to when I got into high school,”  Orhorhoro said. “The funny thing was, Taylor Trillium Academy didn’t have a football team. Then, after I played basketball my sophomore year at River Rouge, Coach Burkes talked to me about going out for football, talked me into it.”

Orhorhoro is serious about everything he does, especially in the classroom, where he owns a 3.8 grade-point average, including 4.0 last semester.

Orhorhoro, a native of Nigeria, explained why he picked Clemson.

“They have a family atmosphere and a great academic school and a great football school, but academics always come first and they have one of the highest APR graduation ratings,” he said, adding he wants to manage a law firm one day.

“They have a great business school and they’re building a new business school and that’s what I’m going to major in. I just want a family atmosphere and people I can trust, people that I can trust to help me be a better man and a better player.

“When I went down there it was a great place, Coach (Dabo) Swinney is a great guy, Coach (Brent) Venables, the defensive coordinator, is a great guy. I love how the team always stuck together, how they pushed each other in the weight room. They were always on time, always focused, and at the same time having fun with each other.”

Orhorhoro was asked if it was tough to say no to Michigan.

“It was a pretty hard decision, but wherever I felt at home, that’s where home was going to be, and I felt Clemson was the right place for me,” he said.

And while Orhorhoro averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds last season, he didn't feel college basketball was in his future.

"Not really," Orhorhoro said. "No big school wants a 6-5 center. That's what point guards and shooting guards are now in Division 1 basketball."