Former CU Buffs star Chidobe Awuzie gained confidence in rookie NFL season

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Former Buffs and current Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie watches former teammates during the 2018 CU pro day on March 7.

  • Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer

    Former Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was starting for the Dallas Cowboys by season's end.



Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch caught a pass from quarterback Derek Carr, turned and locked his eyes on a Dallas Cowboys defender.

Lynch then got into full Beast Mode, cranking up his speed, lowering his shoulder and plowing into the defender, knocking him back five feet to the ground.

“It was definitely a welcome to the NFL moment,” said former Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, the recipient of that blow from Lynch.

There are a couple of videos of that hit on YouTube, both with titles saying Lynch “trucks” Awuzie. And, yeah, he did, but it should be noted that Lynch didn’t gain another inch on that run, as the collision knocked him out of bounds.

“That hit … people probably expected me to get trucked harder or hit harder as a corner,” Awuzie said, “but, I think I definitely earned some respect from my teammates just going head up with Marshawn. Feeling his shoulder pads, one of the best running backs of all time, hardest hitters of all time.”

All part of what was a roller coaster of a rookie year in the NFL for the former CU star.

One of the team leaders and arguably the best player on CU’s Pac-12 South title-winning team in 2016, Awuzie was selected by the Cowboys in the second round — No. 60 overall — of the 2017 NFL draft and by season’s end had solidified a starting spot.

A hamstring injury during training camp lingered for a while and limited Awuzie to 10 games, but in the games he played, he proved his value and potential to be an NFL regular.

“I just learned to be patient and really just started focusing on my body,” Awuzie said in looking back at his first season. “The NFL is a whole different speed and all you’re doing is football all day. I just really had to take a step back and not be as competitive as I am, because I always just want to be on the field.

“After a while, I kind of realized that taking care of my body is first and being available is the most important thing. I ended up starting the last six games and I had a great time playing football again.”

The Cowboys went 9-7 and missed the playoffs, but won four of their last five games.

“At first, it was obviously a transition phase,” Awuzie said. “At the end when we started winning, it really just became football again. That’s when I had the most fun. Anytime we won, if I was on the field or I wasn’t on the field, it was just a good feeling.

“Everybody around the program was happy and everything was looking up. A whole bunch of young players thrown in the league, sometimes people don’t expect you to do how we did and I think we did a pretty good job.”

Awuzie, of course, is looking to do more next season, but was encouraged by the fact that he made some big plays when healthy. He even had his first career interception, picking off eventual Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles.

“It felt real good,” Awuzie said of making plays. “It’s a confidence builder. You walk in thinking you can do that stuff and when you start doing it, it makes you feel that much better and it lays the foundation for next year and years to come that I can make plays in this league just like I did in college.”

The main goal for Awuzie, however, is to play 16 games.

“Be available. That’s No. 1 right now,” he said. “When I really take a step back and I look at my season and how things went, I wasn’t available enough.”

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