After arriving in Boulder in late June, Chidobe Awuzie put all of his energy into one thing.

"I wanted to play," the true freshman cornerback said. "I'm pretty sure every freshman wants to play. I was very confident in my abilities.

"My expectation was to play and to perform on this team."

He's now doing that. Just a few months after high school graduation, Awuzie is the starting nickelback for the Colorado Buffaloes.

"I just try to listen to my coaches," he said of how he got to this point so early. "They get on me sometimes for things. I'm a freshman still, so I'm going to make mistakes. Whatever they try to tell me, I try to correct it as soon as possible and try to remember whatever they say."

At Oak Grove High School in San Jose, Calif., Awuzie did it all. He ran for 1,285 yards, he caught seven passes, he picked off four passes, he blocked four kicks and he even played a little bit at quarterback.

Awuzie wasn't heavily recruited, but San Jose State, Washington State and Colorado State were among the other schools that pursued him. New CU coach Mike MacIntyre began recruiting Awuzie when MacIntyre was at San Jose State and kept at it when he took the CU job.

"When I came here (for an official visit), to be honest, I didn't know if I was going to like it or not," Awuzie said. "I was just going to come on the visit, see what happened and when I came over here I was amazed by the campus, the environment, the coaches, the people and the players. I fell in love with it."


It hasn't taken long for coaches to fall in love with Awuzie's play. Early on in training camp, he proved himself to be among CU's top three corners, along with returning starters Greg Henderson and Kenneth Crawley.

"When camp kept going on and real practices started and I was still nickel, I felt real happy and I was comfortable," he said.

Not too comfortable, though. He knows there are plenty of other corners on the roster pushing to take his spot.

"I don't know if I cemented that (spot); that's up to the coaches," he said. "Whoever is the best player is going to play that week."

Playing nickelback is new to Awuzie. He's used to lining up on the outside and being on an island with a receiver. Nickelback tests his talent in a variety of ways.

"It's way different," he said. "I always knew nickel, the position, but I never played it. I played corner, I played safety before. Nickel is kind of the combination of the two of those, and a little linebacker.

"I wasn't that comfortable at first, but then going on, learning the techniques from the coaches, learning the plays, I got real comfortable."

He looked comfortable on Sunday in his debut against Colorado State. Awuzie played 25 snaps and was in on three tackles and broke up a Rams' pass.

"I was a little jittery," he said. "That was probably the most jittery I've been before a game since Pop Warner days. When the game started and the first couple of series went by, I felt comfortable and it felt like practice."

With four years ahead of him, Awuzie is sure to have some ups and downs in Boulder, but he's hoping people remember him for providing good moments.

"I would like to be known as someone who changed the program with the other freshmen, and listened to the people above me and respected Colorado," he said.

"I'm really excited. It's a great team, and I feel like I made the right decision on signing day."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or