April 21, 2012
By Jon Cooper
It’s not easy to put junior outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu’s game into words.
Former Georgia Tech star defensive Eric Henderson got it pretty close in his interview with Voice of the Yellow Jackets, Wes Durham, at Friday night’s T-Day Game.
“That’s all I’m watching out there,” said Henderson when asked by Durham about the defense. “I love it. They’re flying around out there.”
That description of the unit very much fits Attaochu, who sometimes seems like he’s the only player out there and is always flying around.
He describes himself and every thing he does as fast. Real fast.
“It’s hard for me to slow down. Every time I get in the zone I just want to keep going,” said Attaochu. “That’s how you’re supposed to play. When you’re playing and you’re calm and not thinking fast, that’s when I don’t play as well. So I’m always thinking fast and just going all out.”
That need for speed helps explain his meteoric rise. The 6-3, 235-pound linebacker was born in Nigeria, but grew up in Washington, D.C., where he was introduced to American football in ninth grade. He’d star at Archbishop Carroll High School then was recruited by Georgia Tech. It didn’t take long for Attaochu to start turning heads on the Flats, as he played in 12 games and started in the Independence Bowl as a true freshmanl, then started 10 of 11 games in which he appeared in 2011.
His all-out approach produced a team-leading 11 tackles for loss (four more than the nearest Yellow Jacket, Julian Burnett), 6.0 sacks (three more than second-place Brandon Watts), and two fumbles forced (he also recovered one) last season. Attaochu’s 59 tackles (35 solo) ranked him third on the team. He was as consistent as he was active around the ball-carrier, as he matched his single-game-high of five stops, on three different occasions (vs. North Carolina, at Miami and vs. Virginia Tech).
He was coming all-out Friday night, when he made five tackles for the Gold team, including sacks of quarterback Tevin Washington on back-to-back plays, which short-circuited a second-quarter White possession.
“I didn’t want to hurt any of our quarterbacks, but I was coming,” he said, with a laugh. “I didn’t really hold up that much I don’t think.”
Attaochu likes what he saw from Tech’s deep linebacker corps this spring — especially middle linebacker Quayshawn Nealy and outside linebacker Jabari Hunt-Days — who play a lot like he does and a lot like defensive coordinator Al Groh wants them to within the 3-4 set-up.
“I’m definitely seeing it,” he said. “We might have more talent speed-wise. We’re not overly big guys. We’re versatile as far as the linebacking corps is concerned. The outside linebackers can cover, we can rush and the strength is there. Everything is there. We have the skill set to run [Coach Groh’s] defense.
“The young guys are coming on,” he added. “Tyler Marcordes, he’s a young freshman who redshirted last year. I didn’t really see him coming on, but he’s come out of nowhere and moved up to the second team. Nick Menocal, he’s working hard. Everybody’s working hard. The work ethic is definitely there as far as the younger guys.”
Attaochu will be called upon to be the rock of the unit, as he has the most career starts among the linebackers, although that is only 11 (Nealy is next at seven).
Of course, calling Attaochu’s name has historically been difficult. That goes the way back to high school at Archbishop Carroll when he was being recruited. It led to some fun moments — and pronunciations.
“Definitely, the coaches tried to learn it. They’d call my high school coach,” he recalled.
That didn’t necessarily clear up the issue.
“My high school coach would mess it up, too,” he said, with a laugh. “It takes a while to learn it. “Wes does a good job with it on the radio. One time he called me something crazy, I don’t even remember. I guess he was so excited he forgot how to say it. It’s definitely cool.”
To clear things up, his last name is pronounced “Uh-TAU-chew.”
Nicknames also have run the gamut for him, with some rather obvious, others more cryptic.
“A lot of people in high school called me ‘Choo-Choo’ or ‘Choo-Choo Train,’ ”I Taught You,'” he said. “Then there was one — it was a terrible one — it was like, ‘I Told You Once’ or whatever. It was really slang. My name has been misconstrued as much as possible.”
He’s grown resigned to the mispronunciations of his name, and, while he’d prefer the “Choo-Choo” references go away — he considers it cheesy — he’ll live with whatever nickname comes his way.
Surprisingly, he’s never had or heard of a nickname in the ‘Ouch’ theme — perhaps “Ouch-side Linebacker”– or “Chew” theme — “The Big Chew,” or “Choo-bacca”.
“Bolt-45” might work.
Maybe first-team All-ACC. He would probably like that one.
Feel free to let us know if you have a nickname for Jeremiah Attaochu (Please note: “The Nigerian Nightmare” is taken. That belongs to former NFL fullback Christian Okoye).