Born in Delta State, Nigeria, the concept of American football was foreign to Prince Tega Wanogho.
In fact, when Wanogho moved to Montgomery in 2014, the then 6-foot-7, 240-pound high school freshman had dreams of playing in the NBA.
Before he arrived on The Plains, Wanogho, who also played basketball, played defensive end for coach Bobby Carr and Edgewood Academy. He excelled in both sports, but after suffering a broken leg playing basketball, he turned his attention to football.
Wanogho’s impressive size and raw athleticism made him a tantalizing recruit for colleges, and after playing just 13 high school football games, he was ranked as the No. 4 prospect in the state of Alabama by 247Sports. After redshirting his freshman year at Auburn, the 6-foot-7 freshman moved from defensive end to offensive tackle — a feat that would challenge most players.
“I wasn’t playing football back home so I was still new to the game, so it was easy enough for me and for coach to tell me the proper technique and the proper footwork,” Wanogho said. “So yeah, it wasn’t that bad of a transition for me because I wasn’t playing d-line for long, too. It was a smooth transition.”
Now listed 67 pounds heavier than he was when he was in high school, Wanogho has held down the left tackle position for the Tigers the past two seasons.
The redshirt senior has excelled in his new position and was even named to the 2018 All-SEC first team by Pro Football Focus.
One of five redshirt seniors set to start for the Tigers on the offensive line this season, Wanogho knew that if he left earlier for the NFL, he’d be missing out.
“I would say just my family and the Auburn family as a whole and my teammates because I saw the seniors coming back and I didn’t want to be left out of a great team. I believe we actually have a real chance.”
Growing up, Wanogho and his friends used to joke about how Nigeria was like an old, black and white TV while the United States was in HD color.
When he got to America, Wanogho learned how different the U.S. could be and how little many people actually knew about Nigeria and Africa as a whole.
“They’d be like ‘is your dad the king of Africa?’ but like, no, Africa is a whole continent; Nigeria, that’s where I’m from. You just see people’s reactions but I don’t blame them too because at the same time, they’ve never been as exposed. Some people are in their own little bubble, they’re not really exposed to the outside world,” he said.
Lack of knowledge about Africa has led Wanogho to joke around about having a pet giraffe back home. And to his surprise, a few people have actually believed him.
“Bobo (the giraffe) is just something I actually made up whenever I got here and people were asking me about that every time. The only thing people understand about Africa is, like, big safaris, and so people would always ask me, ‘Do you have a pet tiger?’ ‘You have a pet lion?’ and I’d be like ‘I don’t like lions or tigers, ‘I got a pet giraffe though,’” Wanogho said. “You get a kick out of it because you see people’s reactions and they’re like ‘really?’ ”
On the team, the native Nigerian looks to lead the Tigers’ experienced offensive line group.
“The goal is always the same every year — Win the SEC, win the championship. That’s the goal as a whole unit, as a team,” he said.
Wanogho was a bright spot for a unit that struggled as a whole for most of 2018. With a new offensive coordinator at the helm and head coach Gus Malzahn back to calling plays, Wanogho knows this team can be special.
“We just got to fight — that’s what it is. We’ve just got to fight every night. You always fight at the line of scrimmage and I feel like that’s what we’ve got to do every time we’re on the field — just got to keep fighting,” he said. “I feel like (if) I’m doing my job, the guy next to me is doing his job and everybody’s doing their job — we’re going to do it, we’re going to get it.”
Entering his third season as the Tigers’ starter at left tackle, Wanogho was recently named to the preseason All-SEC first team and was one of three linemen to represent Auburn at SEC Media Days.
“I’m just being the best version of myself and every extra accolade that comes with it, I’ll take that. But for me, I’m just trying to play football and trying to be the best version of myself,” Wanogho said.
If he has the season that many experts expect him to have, Wanogho will be on his way to the NFL after the upcoming season and will become the 10th Nigerian born player currently in the league.