Jan. 3, 2013
by Matt Winkeljohn, Sting Daily –
Catching up with Osahon Tongo is not like trying to track down your usual Yellow Jacket because he’s not one for sticking around the nest. He’s a hell of an example, though, of staying close to those with whom he once (st)-hung.
About now, he’s out on the fringes of Hollywood, getting ready to kick the door in for real. That is not exactly where you find many former Georgia Tech linebackers.
Yet, guess who just finished driving from Atlanta to L.A. – with a layover in El Paso to take in the Sun Bowl and watch his former school torch his next school – in time to arrive on New Year’s Day to trigger a new life.
School starts soon. It’ll be a three-year program at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Tongo, 24, wants to do like Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee. He’s flexible, however, with regard to specifics. As you’ll learn, that’s nothing new.
“I’m open to all types of possibilities; I’m focused on directing,” he said. “The director is like the middle linebacker of the team. I’m also business savvy because I’ve been working in . . . .so I’m open in commercials.”
By phone Thursday, I missed that blip above as O was in the midst of a project. He was scouting a location at L.A.’s somewhat famous, Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles. “We’ll see what this is all about,” he said. “I’m going to compare it to Atlanta.”
I’m not sure what in Atlanta might be in the same genus as Roscoe’s, but Tongo can probably make a connection. His mind works that way.
He is proof that Tech produces more than digital/linear/binary people. He thinks in digital and analog and whatever else. This is not a math & science man any more than a liberal arts dude. Time spent working at Emory in the MBA admissions office after his CNN experience is partially deserving of credit here. Most of this is intrinsic.
Check out some of Tongo’s videography here (http://www.osahontongo.com/) on his website.
“I kind of got more serious junior year,” he said. “In the Campus Movie Festival, they handed out cameras for a week. My first one wasn’t that good, and the second one was better. It all started at Emory. It’s filmmakers that are promoting film-making among students.”
Tongo’s trail might be worth a film.
His parents are Nigerian, and he grew up – mostly – in the Chicago exurb of Naperville. He was fairly highly recruited, chose Tech, and then blew out his knee in his first spring practice in 2006. I was there; it was back in the day when practice was open. It was a sad day.
Tongo redshirted that year, and played sparingly in in ’07 and ’08. He and some fellow linebackers moved to defensive end in ’09 when Al Groh came in and switched the scheme to a 3-4.
He’s remained close to his former band of brothers.
Last year, he went up to Washington, D.C., to help with a function organized by fellow former Tech LB/DE Anthony Egbuniwe. Another former Tech LB from his era, B.J. Machen, was there as well. (Egbuniwe and Machen took jobs with Microsoft.)
Last month, when Tongo was out in L.A. searching for an apartment, he shacked up with fellow former Tech linebacker Albert Rocker, who works for Microsoft.
On his way west last week, he stopped in New Orleans and visited with former Tech teammates Darryl Richard.
And, “I keep in touch with Dominique Reese, and Mike Peterson and I was there when he had his art show,” Tongo said of a couple more former Tech teammates.
Tongo was a live wire on The Flats, and in a good way, and then after graduating in the spring of 2010 with a degree in Management and forgoing another year of football eligibility to instead hire on at CNN, he remained agile.
His digital marketing job at the news leader was, as anyone who knows even a little about the young man will tell you, a port call from the start. No way he was going to drop anchor for good, not that Tongo didn’t do fine work while down the street from Tech.
It’s just that he had this little bug going all the way back to high school, when he edited his own football highlights tape and mailed it to, “the schools that I wanted to go to,” rather than pay somebody to do it for him.
That bug has blossomed into a career aspiration.
There will always remain a Tech connection that cannot be fully replicated and only occasionally approached.
That stop in El Paso was super sweet. It reminded Tongo of his days on The Flats, when he and his buds would try to out-rap one another. It was a big joke, but serious at the same time — a major college memory.
Chances are slim that anybody loved Tech beating USC in the Sun Bowl more than Tongo did, and for reasons that go beyond score. There was a re-connection of value.
“Just talking with some of the players the other day about freestyle [rapping] competitions we used to have right before team meetings . . . we had fun,” he said. “Anthony Allen was pretty good. Cord Howard was creative . . . he was more of a singer. Antonio Wilson was pretty bad, Mario Edwards was off and on. He was always there to put on a show. It was nice.”
The game was fantastic, too.
“It was really good. Seeing how we hadn’t won a bowl game in so many years, especially to see the seniors going out like that was great,” he said. “A lot of people from El Paso were cheering for Georgia Tech. I don’t know if it was because we’d been there before, or what, but it was great.”
He’s left Georgia Tech and his college career. Osahon Tongo is in a different place. His time on The Flats is serving him well. Now, a new challenge looms at USC.
Of his pending course of study, he said, “I’m seeing where it will take me.”
This name – Tongo – is going to come up again. Mark my words. I’m not smart at many things beyond certain hunches, and with that I’d bank on this. If you’re interested in more on Osahon Tongo, check him out on LinkedIn: (http://www.linkedin.com/in/osahontongo). Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.