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Football  . 

Nick Emmanwori Ready to Step Up, Again

by Brad Muller

Freshmen aren’t often stars on SEC defenses. Don’t tell that to defensive back Nick Emmanwori, who led the Gamecocks in tackles last year and was a freshman All-American. What does he do for an encore?

“I think year one was a solid one for me, but I had a conversation with my brother, and I realized I have a lot left to show you guys,” Emmanwori said. “I was pretty confident coming in. (Defensive coordinator) Coach (Clayton) White hinted that I would play a little bit, but I didn’t expect all of that. This year, I feel like I know what I’m doing a little bit more. I’m comfortable because I’ve seen a lot of it before. I can get a little better in coverage, play the posts better, and maybe get more interceptions. I just have to get better.

“The hardest part is communication because it’s loud. If you know what everybody else is doing, it makes your job easier.”

Emmanwori posted 85 tackles, including a season high and team-leading 14 stops against No. 1 Georgia. He got his first big opportunity as a regular in the lineup after replacing an injured R.J. Roderick in the first series of the season and stayed in that spot for the rest of the year.

“Next man up,” Emmanwori said. “That’s what Coach White had been preaching to us. I was mentally prepared to play because I knew I was going to get in at some point. When that happened, I was ready to go. Having 14 tackles just seemed normal to me. That’s what I used to do all the time in high school. I played linebacker, nickelback, safety, and corner sometimes in high school.

“The biggest adjustment to playing in the SEC was the mental stuff. The playbook was a lot! Seeing the speed of the game was a big adjustment.”

Nick Emmanwori vs Notre Dame
“I want to be more of a playmaker on defense. I want my name to be up there as one of the top safeties in the country and one of the top defensive players in the SEC.”
Nick Emmanwori  . 

Emmanwori’s toughness is never in question. As the youngest of five brothers, one has to have a thick skin, and learning from his brothers has made a huge impact on his life.

“My brothers made me tough,” Emmanwori said. “I feel like that’s why I can make all the tackles and hit people so hard without feeling it.”

If he weren’t playing football, he said he would look into UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship). Fortunately, he’s committed to the gridiron. While he’s only a sophomore, he looks to take on a leadership role this year.

“DQ (Smith) and I are some of the only starters returning,” Emmanwori said. “We have to really step up and lead the defense, starting with the secondary. I’m more of a lead by actions type of a guy. I don’t feel any pressure. This is what I’m meant to do.”

Emmanwori has never lacked confidence. After committing to the Gamecocks in high school, he made a post on social media saying that “Clemson was on the clock.” He helped back that up after South Carolina’s win in Death Valley to close out the regular season last year.

“I didn’t really think about the Clemson on the Clock video until after the game,” Emmanwori said. “Coach Beamer is a great coach. After we beat Tennessee, he just told us to keep going. The whole team felt like we could beat Clemson. There was a lot of relief (after the game) because a lot of the fans were up in my DMs!”

After a memorable freshman season, Emmanwori doesn’t plan to slow down in 2023.

“I want to be more of a playmaker on defense. I want my name to be up there as one of the top safeties in the country and one of the top defensive players in the SEC. As a team, we just need to stay humble. We had a great year, and this year we have one of the hardest schedules. I feel like we have a chance to beat every team on our schedule.

“Coach Beamer has put us in such a good position, so we don’t have to listen to any of the critics. We just have to go out there and play.”