Ohio State, ‘Bama starters include former Irish players

Streiff coached both Werner and Ekiyor at the high school level


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The legacy of Irish football includes former players competing for the national title, as will be the case on Jan. 11.

During the college football national championship game on Jan. 11 between top-ranked Alabama and Number-3 Ohio State, Irish football fans will see some familiar faces. Pete Werner ‘17 and Emil Ekiyor ‘18 both will play, but for different teams.

Werner is a senior at Ohio State and starts at inside linebacker. Ekiyor is a redshirt sophomore at Alabama, and starts at right guard for the Crimson Tide.

Athletics Director Mr. Rick Streiff coached both players during their high school careers. Ekiyor and Werner even played together under Streiff during the 2015 and 2016 seasons.

In a Zoom interview on Jan. 7, Streiff cited his enthusiam for the upcoming game, saying, “It’s exciting when you think about the hard work and you watch those kids put the hard work in high school to get themselves on this center stage of college football.”

Streiff said, “You kind of sit back and you understand where they’ve been and where they come from. It speaks volumes to the time and effort (they) put in to get where they are.”

Streiff knew there was something special about both Werner and Ekiyor early on because of their hard work and maturity. He said, “They were leaders. Both Emil and Pete were very quiet leaders. But they were also the hardest workers we had on our team. When your best players are your hardest workers, you know you’ve got a chance to have a real good team, and you know those kids will go on.”

Werner and Ekiyor both have received some interest from the next level. Streiff said, “I’ve actually had several conversations with some NFL teams that have reached out about Pete’s background,” and he projects Werner to be a second, third or fourth round pick in the NFL draft this April.

Streiff also believes Ekiyor could be an NFL draft pick at some point. He said, “I think Emil has a real good chance at playing at the next level as well. I mean, you don’t become a starter as a sophomore at Alabama and not have a little bit of talent.”

He also noted their success in the classroom, saying, “Pete has already graduated and is working on a master’s degree and will likely have one when it’s all said and done. And Emil is well over halfway to graduating. The football part of it is great, but they are also getting their degrees.”

Streiff said he is not pulling for a specific team on Monday night, but he did say, “Cathedral wins either way.”

Note: Senior Jake Langdon contributed to this story.