LOS ANGELES — Normally, in late January, the Rose Bowl, one of College Football’s most glorious venues, is used for flea market’s or tours. However, this week, an unlikely figure is running routes on the stadium’s frosted grass. It is former-UCLA Bruins’ tight end Michael Ezeike, who has returned to a place he has been countless times in front of bustling crowds. However, this time the stadium is nearly vacant. And similar to the masses, he is there with a different purpose and a new identity.
Ezeike is ready to take on the NFL Draft and is at the Rose Bowl to prepare for it. However, he is not in his traditional uniform. This time, he is boasting a gray and red jersey as a part of the National Team in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. And he has brought a new sense of maturity with him.
Ezeike has been displaying his talent to scouts in practice this week. However, he has impressed many with his off-the-field etiquette even more. His tight ends coach, Jason Dunn, noticed this.
“He has been doing well as far as showing up to meetings, being there on time, being attentive, and taking notes,” Dunn said.
Despite the praise, Ezeike did not always have the maturity he has today. It is an area he has developed over time and is now mastering it. He understands that in the NFL, there are no adults to ensure he is responsible, so he is learning to do it himself.
“Building leadership through my teammates and just being more responsible [is important to me],” Ezeike said. “Time management [is] huge… [I am working on] the little details that young kids don’t see.”
Ezeike’s punctuality could help him earn a spot in the NFL because his on-the-field talent also impresses many. The former four-star recruit’s Collegiate Bowl teammates and coaches immediately noticed him when he stepped on the football field.
To be fair, the 6-foot-five, 252-pound tight end is hard to miss. However, his peers saw Ezeike as he used his size in action on the first day of practice when he leaped and caught a pass at a high point over his defender.
“He snagged it out of [the air],” Dunn said. “Immediately, they said, ‘man, who is this kid? Who is Ezeike…’ I said, yeah, he is the truth. That is the real deal.”
Dunn is a former-NFL tight end and current tight ends coach at Kentucky State University, so he knows what it takes for a player to make it to the next level.
Another one of Ezeike’s peers that noticed him was former-Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham. And Cunningham is excited to play alongside him.
“You can’t really miss [Ezeike],” Cunningham said. “When you put the ball in his vicinity, you know he is definitely going to come down with it.”
Today, he will play in the Collegiate Bowl at 3 p.m. and look to feature his talents in his former-home stadium, the Rose Bowl.
“It feels very, very good to play my last game [at the Rose Bowl],” Ezeike said. “[I] built a lot of memories here, so just getting one more shot at playing in the Rose Bowl is going to be a big deal for me.”
After the game, Ezeike will continue training while preparing for his pro day at UCLA. After, he hopes to be selected in the NFL Draft and play a lengthy career to become a “household name.”
“If he stays blessed to stay healthy, he will have a long career,” Dunn said.