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Playoff Round 1 Player of the Week – Mountain Lakes’ Runningback Uzoma Egbuchulam

Traditionally a senior focused football program, Mountain Lakes players are forced to patiently wait their turn before they can make their mark on the program. For senior runningback Uzoma Egbuchulam, waiting for his number to be called was well worth it. The Amherst bound Egbuchulam busted out this season as one of the top players in Morris Sussex with over 1,500 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground. His performance through 10 games has been a key factor in Mountain Lakes undefeated season and the reason they are the second seed in the state tournament.

This past week, Egbuchulam led the Herd with 151 yards and two touchdowns to trudge past Rutherford 28-7 in the first round of the North 2, Group 2 state playoff section. This was enough to earn him this week’s Morris Sussex Football’s Player of the Week. Morris Sussex Football caught up with Egbuchulam to talk about his team’s success, his personal role model and what it means to this team to win a state title.

George Muha: Does anyone besides us (Morris Sussex Football) call you Zoom Zoom?
Uzoma Egbuchulam: The nickname caught on right after week one. Pretty much everyone calls me that now, even my mom and some of my coaches.

Despite the fact that Egbuchulam is heading to Amherst for lacrosse, he’s excelled as one of the best runningback’s in northern New Jersey.

GM: Your team has pretty much buzz sawed through the competition this year. What is the secret to your team’s success?
UE: There really is no secret besides hard work. Our senior class and team in general has put in so much time into our workouts and preparation this past winter and summer. When the season began we as a whole were able to raise our level both athletically and mentally.

GM: What was the highlight of your varsity football career so far?
UE: I’d have to say the win against Butler. For a game to be so close for so long, and so many great plays being made by our defense was amazing to be a part of.

GM: Who is the flat out best athlete on your team?
UE: I honestly can say that there is no flat out best athlete on our team. There are a lot of gifted guys on our team that excel in so many different areas.

GM: If you were in a goal line situation, which defender on your team would you NOT want to face?
UE: Going head to head with Frank Merrill in any situation is a scary thought. He gets so low on every hit that you can’t really protect yourself when he gets to you

GM: Who would give you a run for your money in the forty?
UE: To name a few, our halfbacks Mike Sammarro and Spencer Herman both would. Both of those guys have great acceleration and speed. Any of us could win on any given day.

GM: Who are the unsung heroes of your team?
UE: The unsung heroes would have to be everyone on the scout teams. These guys week in and week out give it their all in practice to help us get better. Without these guys going as hard as they do, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

GM: What was the funniest thing that happened to your team during the game or at practice this year?
UE: One day after about an hour and a half of one practice our coach tells us that if we hit this deep ball practice is over. Naturally everyone gets excited because we had done this before and we usually hit the pattern. This time however, we threw about 3-4 passes without hitting one. After our receivers took their turn, our 250lb nose guard decides to go out for a pass. After he doesn’t catch it we’re all laughing pretty hard and coach calls the practice

Egbuchulam and his senior teammates have waiting four years to have their chance at a state title. At 10-0, they are well on their way.

GM: Who was the best player you played against during your varsity career?
UE: This goes back to my sophomore year, but definitely Wallington runningback Chris Sullivan. I ran down on a kickoff to tackle him and it was like I ran into a brick wall. That kid was a great player who had a lot of great runs against us in that state championship

GM: What is it like playing for Coach Fusco?
UE: Playing for Coach Fusco is a lot of fun. He’s a guy who will get in your face when you do something wrong, but at the same time he can crack a joke and make everyone laugh. He’s also a very up tempo and energetic guy. He always wants to be moving and doesn’t like wasting time.

GM: What current or past NFL player do your playing style most resemble?
UE: I can’t say that my play reminds me of someone specific from the NFL because I run a unique kind of way. I still don’t know why, but when I run I tend to flail whichever arm is not carrying the ball. It might be for balance, but who knows.

GM: Who is your role model?
UE: My role model will always be my dad. When he was alive, he taught me something that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life: True success is wrought from one’s blood, sweat, and tears and nothing else.

GM: What does winning a state title mean to you?
UE: Simply put, winning the state title is everything. Winning would be the ultimate reward for a team that has given so much time for such an opportunity. To me personally, it would mean that everything that I have done up to this point was indeed for a purpose.

George Muha has been covering high school sports since 2006. He feels high school scholar-athletes are the most important part of the community and highlighting their achievements on the field, in the classroom and within the community is his personal mission.

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