Former GMC star pursues NFL dream after career derailedby WoodbridgeFootball.com / MyCentralJersey.com / NJ.com on 04/30/17
Praise Martin-Oguike, a Nigerian-born football star from Woodbridge High School, is headed to the Miami Dolphins' rookie camp as an undrafted free agent, five years after charges of rape, that were later dropped, derailed the former Temple University defensive end's life and career.
The allegations, against which Martin-Oguike maintained his innocence from the onset, caused him to miss the entire 2012 and 2013 college football seasons while the charges were investigated and ultimately dropped by the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.
“We’re extremely excited for him,” said Brian Russo, who coached Martin-Oguike in high school. “I spoke with him yesterday and told him I couldn’t be more proud for everything he’s overcome and the adversity he had in college and the fact that he stuck with it. He comes from a real strong supportive family. I told him to play with a chip on your shoulder because that’s what got him to where he is now.”
Martin-Oguike, who moved to the United States from Nigeria when he was 10, could not be immediately reached for comment. He tweeted last night that he is “thankful for the opportunity” with the Dolphins. The Orlando Sentinel reported Martin-Oguike is one of 14 undrafted players that Miami will sign.
As a Home News Tribune first-team All-Area selection in 2010, Martin-Oguike was the conference’s hardest-hitting linebacker, knocking four quarterbacks out of commission while recording a team-high 93 tackles.
Martin-Oguike, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 255 pounds, played the Mike position as a true freshman at Temple before being converted to a defensive end. He projects as an outside linebacker, but could still play defensive end, at the next level.
A second-team All-Conference selection in 2014 and 2016, Martin-Oguike’s career statistics reflect he has the athleticism to play multiple positions. Martin Oguike accumulated 29 tackles for a loss, 17.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, six blocked kicks and four fumble recoveries as a collegian. Russo said Martin-Oguike will leave for Miami's rookie camp on Thursday.
After playing in seven games at Temple in 2011, Martin-Oguike returned to the field as a redshirt sophomore in 2014, recording the second most sacks (7.5) in the American Athletic Conference and forcing the fourth most fumbles (five) in college football. A year later, Martin-Oguike overcame preseason injuries to play in every game and registered his first career interception in a 24-20 loss to Notre Dame. Last fall, Martin-Oguike recorded 54 tackles (10 for a loss) and 7.5 sacks.
Martin-Oguike, whose father is a minister and whose mother is a poet, attended Middlesex County College while he was indefinitely suspended from Temple University following the May 2012 allegations. The Owls reinstated Martin-Oguike after the charges of rape and sexual assault were dropped.
“We are just extremely proud of Praise for getting this opportunity,” Woodbridge High School Athletics Director Joe Ward said. “Praise comes from a family of strong faith and they relied on that faith to get him through a tough time, and I’m just so happy for the family that he now has this opportunity."
Along with his attorney, James A. Funt, Martin-Oguike told MyCentralJersey.com in October 2013 that the sex between Martin-Oguike and the woman he was dating who accused him of rape was consensual. Her motive, Funt said, was to get back at Martin-Oguike for not agreeing to have a long-term relationship with her. In early October 2013, just as jury selection was about to begin in Martin-Oguike's trial, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office dropped the case with Tasha Jamerson, a spokeswoman for the District Attorney’s Office stating, “Upon further investigation, it was determined there was not enough evidence to proceed to trial.”
"From the beginning of this case, we maintained that Mr. Martin-Oguike was completely innocent," Funt previously told MyCentralJersey.com. "We said then, and have been proven right, that he was the victim of a woman who was determined to destroy him simply because he would not agree to have a romantic long-term relationship with her. A full forensic examination of her cellphone revealed the true nature of who she is and the completely consensual nature of her sexual relationship with Praise. When looked at in conjunction with the medical information, it was clear the complainant's story was simply not true.”
As a scholastic player, Martin-Oguike transformed himself from a raw talent into a more complete player with attention to detail and working tirelessly in the offseason. When Woodbridge went to a 50 defense toward the end of his senior year, Martin exceled, helping the Barrons outscore their last three opponents 116-13.
“He developed late,” Russo said, attributing Martin-Oguike’s success to work ethic. “He was the first guy in the weight room and the last guy to leave. He would do all the extra work. Those are the things that got him to where he is now.”
Martin led Woodbridge as a senior with 3.5 sacks, two interceptions, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble. The Barrons held five opponents to one score or less and two opponents to two touchdowns.