South Warren senior linebacker/running back Joel Iyiegbuniwe verbally committed to Western Kentucky on Thursday night.
The 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pound prospect – rated a two-star recruit by Rivals and Scout – also had offers from Indiana State and Southern Illinois.
“It feels good to finally commit somewhere and get this thing over with,” Iyiegbuniwe said. “It’s a blessing, and it’s hard work paying off. I can’t wait until I get up there.”
Iyiegbuniwe recorded 23 tackles – including four for loss – two fumble recoveries and an interception returned for a touchdown on defense in four games in 2013, as well as 125 rushing yards and five total offensive scores.
His senior season was cut short while he suffered from rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which muscles release lactic acid into the bloodstream, according to SWHS coach Mark Nelson. The ailment can cause damage to the kidneys if not treated properly.
Iyiegbuniwe has returned to lifting and working out again, he said, although he’s taking it easy while he tries to get his optimum weight back.
The WKU staff showed no hesitations because of his ailment, he said. He was primarily recruited by Tops offensive coordinator Jeff Brohm.
“They were really easy about it,” he said. “They didn’t seem to mind. I was happy to see that. They said, ‘We know what you can do, and we still believe in you.’ That really helped me.”
South Warren’s season ended with an 8-7 loss at Paducah Tilghman in the third round of the Class 3A playoffs.
“It was really frustrating,” Iyiegbuniwe said of missing time. “But I was able to get through it. It was tough at times, but in the end, I’m a Hilltopper, so it all worked out for the best.”
Iyiegbuniwe recorded 64 tackles and three interceptions for South Warren as a junior. He also rushed for 486 yards and two touchdowns and caught 11 passes for 189 yards and two TDs.
He moved from safety to inside linebacker on defense before his senior year to prepare for playing linebacker at the college level.