IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR THE SILENT BUT STURDY OFFENSIVE LINEMAN TYPE, LOOK elsewhere. Iowa State senior left tackle Kelechi Osemele enjoys destroying his opponents—and letting them know about it. "I'm always vocal during the game because I think you should be passionate about your craft," Osemele says. "I usually tell my opponent to stay down and that there's no reason to get up. What do they say? They usually say, 'Come on man, get off of me.'"
Such bravado isn't exactly what coach Paul Rhoads is looking for. "I would probably prefer our linemen to be more reserved," he says. "But KO has a tendency, when he makes one of those blocks, to gyrate a little out there on the field and feel good about it."
One of the things Rhoads himself feels good about is having the 6' 6", 347-pound Osemele as a building block at left tackle as Iowa State ushers in a new quarterback with the departure of three-year starter Austen Arnaud. Osemele, who has started 30 straight games, was named a preseason All-America in Phil Steele's 2011 College Football Preview, and plenty of talent evaluators have cited him as a first-round selection in the '12 NFL draft.
Osemele is well aware of such talk. His friends often send him links via Facebook regarding mock drafts. "It motivates me to live up to my expectations," Osemele says.
"The attention is well deserved," says Rhoads. "We know his physical stature, but what makes him physical is how he manhandles guys. He takes advantage of that size and strength, and when he locks on you, he will finish you, and often into the ground. You combine that with his long leverage and long arms, which are ideal for pass blocking, and you have a multidimensional player who is a run blocker and pass protector. He's earned the attention, but he needs to prove it again against great competition."
Some scouts believe that Osemele will switch to guard in the NFL. He played right tackle at Houston's Langham Creek High and guard as a freshman at Iowa State. "The only reason I switched to left tackle was because we didn't have one," says Osemele, who, for his part, believes that his strength is in run blocking.
"He is like a noseguard playing left tackle because he is so physical," offensive coordinator Tom Herman told The Ames Tribune last December. Former Cyclone Arnaud, thankful for Osemele's girth, added, "He is too much man for a lot of people to handle."
Osemele was already 6' 1" as a freshman in high school, but he grew two inches that year and was 6' 5" by the time he graduated. Nebraska and Houston showed serious interest, but Osemele said he looked at the depth chart at Iowa State and thought he could play there immediately.
Osemele's family has its roots in the Delta State of Nigeria, near the southern tip of the country. They came to the U.S. three decades ago to attend the University of Texas at Tyler. Osemele, a liberal arts major and business minor, has visited Nigeria twice, including when he was 17. "My last name means 'ancient warrior,' and my first name translates to 'Thank God,'" Osemele explained. "My dad said if my mom ever gave him a son, he would thank God every day. So he did."