C.J.’s Endpoints: Getting off the schneid with a win at Nevada

C.J. Onyechi - C.J.'s Endpoints - RamNation.comEach week Colorado State defensive end C.J. Onyechi will share his viewpoints on the team’s performance, as well as the upcoming week.  Learn more here on how to contribute to RamNation’s NIL fund for C.J. and future student athlete partners.

Congratulations on getting the win Friday night vs. Nevada! The locker room celebration on your Instagram live video showed how excited/happy the team was. How important/relieving was it to get that first win for this team?

That first win was everything. We as a team declared conference play as a new season. We flushed the past down and are really a ‘new’ team (literally and figuratively). We are 1-0 in this new season and I think our confidence is finally where it needs to be. Moving forward we are going to keep that momentum and that starts everyday at practice. But the most important thing this win did was bring some joy and life into this team. Now we see what hard work can do for us, and now that the standard is set, we have to stick with it.

Much was made of Coach Norvell and staff’s return to Nevada, along with a handful of former players there. Was there extra motivation to go win that game after some of the commentary by Nevada head coach Ken Wilson and some of their fans on social media?

Of course! Besides the motivation to get off to a good start in conference, we used some of that stuff we heard as motivation. I believe the whole team really wanted to win this game for Coach Norvell. The stuff that was said about him in the media, no matter the circumstances, was unacceptable. And even so, he still spoke highly of the guys in Nevada and told us not to write back to anything on social media. We as a team decided to talk with our pads, and I’m glad we did because the results showed up on the field. 

What was the atmosphere/experience like in a hostile environment with a lot of angry fans who were waiting for this game since Norvell and staff left for CSU last December?

As a transfer from Rutgers, I’ve played in some pretty brutal crowds, but I can say by far the Nevada crowd was probably the rowdiest crowd I’ve played in front of, and that just added more fuel to our flame. It was a wild environment for sure. Those are the games you wish for. I’m not sure if that was necessarily a rivalry game in previous years, but now it definitely is. Nevada put us in the worst locker room they could find – literally a five-minute walk from the stadium. Along the walk to the stadium, fans were talking smack and trying to get a reaction out of us. And, by the time we came to the field for pregame stretch, the fans were getting out of hand. But, looking back, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

On TV, it seemed there was a lot of extra-curricular activity after plays by Nevada players and a lot of trash talking going on throughout? What was your experience on the field?

It was bad actually. Watching the offense especially, you could see a lot of that. It seemed after every play there were some extra shoves to Avery Morrow, our running back (which really didn’t affect him because he had a hell of a game). And, the play where Tory Horton caught a pass on Nevada’s sideline was probably the worst. A player on the sideline knocked him down and they all stood over him talking smack. I’m still shocked till this day that there was no flag thrown. But it was constant back and forth between trash talking and pushing past the whistle. I loved it.

You and your defense had a fantastic night. Only gave up 14 points, and two defensive scores changed the game. Defense also had two sacks, and six additional QB hurries. What was the difference in the defense this week giving its best performance of the season so far?

Coach Freddie Banks made sure we had major attention to detail this last week of practice. He was on us, not going to lie, but that’s what a team of young men need sometimes. The results definitely showed, especially with some of the guys who hadn’t got as many reps but had big roles in this past game.

Coach Norvell got emotional after the game, talking about how great it was to see the team play for each other and get a win, which he called as big of a win as he’s had. He has been painted as a bad guy by Nevada’s coach and their entire fan base. What kind of man/leader is he in your opinion, and was the team extra motivated to win this game for him?

I’ve been around a lot of coaches in my lifetime, and Norvell is definitely a coach that has changed my life for the better. He helped me gain my confidence and grow as a leader after some of my old coaches at my previous school did basically the opposite. I could only imagine where I’d be if he had coached me for four years. The picture they painted of him this week didn’t sit well with me or any of the people that truly know Coach Norvell because he is nothing liked that. I’m glad I get to finish my college career under his guidance. This week’s win was for Coach.

Coach Norvell has said he’s sensed a strengthening of the team amidst all the in-season player departures. He’s intimating that the team will get stronger as players who were not fully bought in leave, and the remaining players who are bought in will bond together and play better because of it. Do you sense that coming to fruition?

I do believe that. I don’t have anything bad to say about the guys who left. I left my previous school for a better opportunity so I can relate to some of them. However, I do believe some of that negativity that was surrounding the team the first couple weeks has definitely been lifted since some of the players left. I do believe everyone who stuck around ultimately wants to see us be a successful team, and I can’t wait to see what this team is gonna accomplish this season.

Rams are now 1-0 in MW play. Utah State, who just Air Force Saturday, is up next. Should be a big Homecoming crowd. Can you guys duplicate the level of play and give your team a chance at 2-0 in MW play?

That is our goal this week for practice. Our week of practice post bye-week, was by far our best week of practice. We need to keep applying pressure and keep that standard of practice up. We have had struggles at home but I believe that will change with our ‘new season mentality’. Can’t wait to experience my first homecoming at CSU, I know it will be one to remember.

About our student athlete

Christian “C.J.” Onyechi is a fifth-year senior from New Jersey who starts at defensive end for the Rams. He is studying Communication & Technology (in the in the Journalism and Media Communications department). You can read all of his “C.J.’s Endpoints” features here

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