Iheanyi Uwaezuoke

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Iheanyi Uwaezuoke
No. 89, 80
Position: Wide receiver / Punt returner
Personal information
Date of birth: (1973-07-24)July 24, 1973
Place of birth: Lagos, Nigeria
Height: 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Weight: 198 lb (90 kg)
Career information
High school: Los Angeles (CA) Harvard
College: California
NFL Draft: 1996 / Round: 5 / Pick: 160
Career history
Career highlights and awards
  • NFL Number 27: Career Yards per Punt Return[1]
  • NFL Number 3: Single Season Punt Returns for TD[2]
  • NFL Top Ten: Single Season Yards per Punt Return (as a first year starter)[3][4]
  • NCAA Top 15: 5.6 Receptions per Game (as a junior)[5]
Career NFL statistics as of 2000
Receptions: 29
Receiving yards: 374
Touchdowns: 1
Punt returns: 62
Punt return yards: 696
Touchdowns: 1
Player stats at NFL.com
Player stats at PFR

Iheanyi Uwaezuoke (/ˈhɑːnji ˈwzk/ ee-HAHN-yee oo-WAY-zoh-kay;[6] born July 24, 1973) is a Nigerian, former profesional football player in the National Football League.[7][better source needed] He was drafted in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Uwaezuoke starred as a Punt Returner for the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers. He also played for the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions. Uwaezuoke played wide receiver for the University of California, Berkeley, where he finished 15th in the nation with 5.6 Receptions per Game as a junior.[8][9][10]

Early years[edit]

Uwaezuoke was born in Lagos, Nigeria. His father, a Nigerian Igbo, came to America in 1978 to pursue his education, and the rest of his family followed in 1980. Uwaezuoke attended Harvard High School in Studio City, California.[11] He played wide receiver, defensive back, linebacker and punt returner. Uwaezuoke was selected to the Los Angeles Times All San Fernando Valley Team, the All California Southern Section Division VII Team and the Daily News All Star Roster.[12][12] In addition to football, he also played basketball(10.2 ppg & All League) and competed in track and field. He placed 3rd at Southern Section Finals in the triple jump covering a distance of 45 feet 2 inches (13.77 m)(school record). He was a member of the 400 meter relay which placed 1st at the California Southern Section Division 1A Finals. At 180 pounds (82 kg), Uwaezuoke also had a personal best of 45 feet in the shot put.[11] Uwaezuoke was recruited by UCLA, Duke, Penn, and California, but ultimately received no athletic scholarship offers.[13][14]

College career[edit]

Uwaezuoke chose to attend the University of California as a walk-on,[11] and earned a scholarship after his first semester.[15] Uwaezuoke became known as a big-play wide receiver for the Golden Bears. He caught 27 passes in his sophomore year, including a touchdown in Cal's 1993 Alamo Bowl win over Iowa.[16] Playing in 10 games in 1994, he had 56 catches for 716 yards and 5 touchdowns.[17] In 1995, he missed the front and back ends of his senior year due to thumb[18] and knee injuries.[19] and had 30 receptions for 506 yards and three touchdowns in 6 complete games. Uwaezuoke rounded out his college career with 114 catches for 1,703 yards[20] and tied a school record (later surpassed) for total receptions in a game (13).[21]

Professional career[edit]

1996 Pre Draft[edit]

Considered an NFL top 100 Prospect. Was invited to but not medically cleared to participate in the Hula Bowl All Star Classic. Attended the NFL Combine, but only participated in interviews and medical examinations. Projected as a first round draft pick prior to the 1995 NCAA Division 1-A football season. Recorded 4.38 seconds forty yard dash at 49ers team visit. Officially Selected in round five pick number 28 of the 1996 NFL Draft.

1996 Preseason[edit]

Recorded the best "pro agility" or 20-yard shuttle time on San Francisco 49ers' roster, which was one year removed from Superbowl Championship. Regarded as one of the best athletes in the league as a result of pro agility and forty yard dash combination. Entered preseason opener as the 49er offense's primary deep threat and third down receiver. Suffered a second degree AC separation on first reception vs the Denver Broncos and missed six games.

1996 Regular Season[edit]

Returned in week three of the regular season. Proved to be the 49ers offense's primary downfield option and served as team's third receiver. Led the club in critical third down conversion percentage: 78%. Regarded as a top 40 first year player (out of roughly 1500 total) in the NFL.

1997 Regular Season[edit]

Registered 500+ all purpose yards by week 9 of regular season. Was a game time coaches DNP (Did Not Play) in week 10 at Eagles on NFL Monday Night Football. Underwent arthroscopic knee procedure to remove debris (in joint) and missed week 11 bout vs. Carolina. Returned to starting punt return duties in week 12 vs. Chargers and posted 63 yards on 6 touches. Was removed from punt return duties after early muffed catch vs Denver week 15. Reinserted in line up at Seattle for regular season finale. Not used as a punt returner for 49ers two game playoff bid. Committed two turnovers in 69 touches for the season. Forced 2 fumbles and recovered another on special teams. Appeared on NFL Leaderboard as a first year featured punt returner: NFL Top Ten in Yards per Punt Return. Finished regular season as one of nine players on 49er squad to appear on NFL Single Season Leaderboard: Dana Stubblefield, Chris Doleman, Gary Anderson, Steve Young, Merton Hanks, Garrison Hearst, Chuck Levy, Terry Kirby. List includes 3 NFL All-Pro players, one of which was the 1997 NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Not to mention, 2 players on the same list are currently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Finished regular season in top four on 49ers in All Purpose Yards (12.5 games as third receiver, 3 games as kick returner, 12 games as a starting punt returner).

1998 Preseason[edit]

NFL Top Ten and led 49er Club in total receptions 13.

1998 NFL Regular Season[edit]

Recorded personal all time best: 22.3 yards per reception through week 9. Signed with Dolphins from waivers in week 10. Was deactivated after two games but not placed on Injured Reserve: cyst in left index finger. Dolphins improved to divisional round after a wild card playoff loss the previous season.

1998 Off Season[edit]

Underwent successful cyst removal surgery. Tendered restricted free agent contract by the Dolphins: 1 year $420,000. Became unrestricted free agent in April of 1999. Visited Atlanta, Carolina, and Philadelphia and received three contract offers. Signed a one year contract as free agent with Carolina but received no signing bonus.

1999 Regular Season[edit]

Appeared in 10 games with the Detroit Lions. Split time as a punt returner (as game assurance due to previous hand injuries). Finished season in NFL Top Twenty for Yards per Punt Return. Led Lions in Punt Return yards and Total Punts Returned. Led NFL in Unassisted Special Teams Tackles: 10; plus 3 Assisted Tackles for a total of 13. Lions earned a wild card playoff bid after a 5 and 11 season in 1998.

2000 Regular Season[edit]

Returned to Carolina on 1 year contract $413,000 and no signing bonus. Set Franchise Single Season Record for Yards per Punt Return. "Unofficial" NFL Leader for Yards per Punt Return: 17.3.

NFL Career Summary[edit]

Regarded as one of the elite players at wide receiver for the era. Finished pro football career as the NFL's 27th All Time Leader for Career Yards per Punt Return. Recorded NFL Leaderboard statistics at three uniquely different pro positions over span of 65 games (includes '98 preseason). Is one of 13 wide receivers selected in 1996 Draft to earn an all time top 100 rating at a skill position. Displayed, arguably the most meteoric rise to NFL immortality, by reaching the NFL Top 100 All Time Leaderboard in just 32 games as a Punt Returner. A reputed game changer and top tier statistical performer, selected as part of the most talent laden and prolific wide receiver draft class in NFL history.

[22][23][24][25][26][27][28][better source needed][29][30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38][39][40][41][42]


  1. ^ http://www.databasefootball.com/players/playerpage.htm?ilkid=UWAEZIHE01
  2. ^ http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/U/UwaeIh00.htm#all_leaderboard
  3. ^ http://www.infoplease.com/ipsa/A0301936.html
  4. ^ http://www.tradingcarddb.com/ViewCard.cfm/sid/4267/cid/945048/1998-Ultra-261-Iheanyi-Uwaezuoke
  5. ^ http://www.si.com/vault/1995/08/05/211404/1994-regular-season-stats
  6. ^ Klein, Patrick (November 4, 1994). 4, 1994/10_1_m.html "Uwaezuoke is no average Joe" Check |url= value (help). Arizona Daily Wildcat. Retrieved 2015-07-16. It took UA Sports Information Director Tom Duddleston to pronounce the name for Tomey. For the record, Iheanyi Uwaezuoke is pronounced Eee-HAH-nyee OO-WAY-zoh-kay . . . . 
  7. ^ Category:Nigerian players of American football
  8. ^ http://www.si.com/vault/1995/08/05/211404/1994-regular-season-stats
  9. ^ http://www.si.com/vault/1995/08/28/8096021/one-to-108-beginning-with-the-best-southern-cal-and-ending-with-the-worst-ohio-we-rank-every-division-ia-team-and-indicate-its-conference-affiliation-by-colored-symbol
  10. ^ For Cal's Uwaezuoke, it's been a painful senior season
  11. ^ a b c Riley, Jeff (July 25, 1991). "Uwaezuoke to Walk On With Purpose : Prep football: Nigerian receiver-defensive back from Harvard High vows to earn a scholarship at Cal.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b http://library.la84.org/SportsLibrary/HELMS/Football/CIFFOOTBALL1990.PDF
  13. ^ Haddad, Dana (October 6, 1994). "Cal's Uwaezuoke a Deep Thinker". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  14. ^ https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-25024205.html
  15. ^ "Harvard Alumnus earns football grant from Cal", Los Angeles Daily News, May 28, 1992 (pay site).
  16. ^ Dana Haddad, "Cal's Uwaezuoke Still Feels a Hunger", Los Angeles Times, January 6, 1994.
  17. ^ Dana Haddad, "Pro Career Next Route for Cal's Uwaezuoke?", Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1995.
  18. ^ Samuel Chi, "Uwaezuoke thumbs nose at adversity", San Francisco Examiner, September 29, 1995.
  19. ^ "Receiver Uwaezuoke Goes Out With Style, Sadness", San Jose Mercury News, November 5, 1995 (pay site).
  20. ^ Samuel Chi, "Bears lose WR Uwaezuoke, LB Johnson for rest of season", San Francisco Examiner, November 5, 1995.
  21. ^ "Bears Need Rally to Edge Beavers", Associated Press in Los Angeles Times, November 1, 1998.
  22. ^ David Wharton, "Something Special: Iheanyi Uwaezuoke of Harvard-Westlake High Has Seen Limited Action as a Receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, but He's Finding His Niche on the Club With His Strong Play on Special Teams." Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1997.
  23. ^ Cesar Brioso, "An Opportunity To Return: Cut By 49ers, Uwaezuoke Aims For Role With Dolphins", Sun-Sentinel, November 21, 1998.
  24. ^ Iheanyi Uwaezuoke at DatabaseFootball.com.
  25. ^ "Pro Career Next Route for Cal's Uwaezuoke?"
  26. ^ "Uwaezuoke thumbs nose at adversity"
  27. ^ ,"Bears lose WR Uwaezuoke, LB Johnson for rest of season", San Francisco Examiner,
  28. ^ Fox Sports Networks
  29. ^ http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/U/UwaeIh00.htm#all_receiving_and_rushing
  30. ^ http://www.phins.com/news98/News_9811100857.html#rel
  31. ^ http://ainsworthsports.com/football_player_rankings_by_position_wr_1990s.htm
  32. ^ http://www.profootballarchives.com/1999nfldet.html
  33. ^ http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/detroit-lions-team-transactions?year=1999&month=1&type=20
  34. ^ http://www.infoplease.com/ipsa/A0301936.html
  35. ^ https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/81124399/
  36. ^ https://www.comc.com/Cards/Football/1996/SkyBox_Impact_Rookies/63/Iheanyi_Uwaezuoke_RC/800129
  37. ^ http://www.thesportster.com/football/top-15-best-wide-receiver-draft-classes-of-all-time/
  38. ^ http://www.espn.com/nfl/player/stats/_/id/1063/iheanyi-uwaezuoke
  39. ^ http://www.footballdb.com/games/boxscore.html?gid=1997111612
  40. ^ http://www.footballdb.com/games/boxscore.html?gid=1997111001
  41. ^ http://www.pro-football-reference.com/years/1997/allpro.htm
  42. ^ http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/det/