Brookfield boys have become close at UW
Chikwe Obasih has developed a close relationship with fellow defensive lineman Alec James.Image By: Aevyrie Roessler
Despite being as different as possible, there are two players on Wisconsin’s defense that are as close as teammates could be.
One stands by, attentively listening and succinctly answering everyone’s questions. The other bounces around, constantly talking, hassling his teammates as they talk to reporters and stand in front of cameras. One loudly yells out, “Hey Terrance…Terrance…Terrance,” repeating T.J. Edwards’ name until the redshirt sophomore linebacker finally turns and looks at him, while the other, off to the side, just chuckles.
The pair of UW redshirt junior defensive ends, boisterous Chikwe Obasih and the more reserved Alec James, have very different personalities and different playing styles, but after nearly a decade of playing against and with each other, the two are best friends.
“First time I remember [knowing Chikwe] was middle school, I just heard about him, nothing major,” James said. “Then as we got older, we had so many mutual friends we just kinda got together, then hung out a few times.”
James and Obasih both hail from Brookfield, Wis., and while they’re teammates now, they weren’t always. The two played on different peewee teams, went to different middle schools and starred for different high schools, James for Brookfield East and Obasih for Brookfield Central, which created a sort of friendly rivalry between the two.
“He’s so good at football, have you seen him? He was starting as a freshman in high school, and I didn’t start as a sophomore, so [we played] from sophomore year on. He always played up in junior football, so I only played him in sixth and eighth grade,” Obasih said.
The pair kept in contact through mutual friends, as well as hanging out at football camps around the state, and both kept up with the others’ recruiting progress. Obasih remembers that James’ first scholarship offer was from Iowa State, a fact that even James couldn’t remember off the top of his head. The pair didn’t necessarily plan on attending the same school, but when they had the opportunity to play for Wisconsin, they both took it.
After they both redshirted for a year, Obasih was the first to earn a starting position, despite insisting that James is a better player. However, James would rotate in on expected passing downs, so both players saw plenty of playing time in their freshman season. Again during their sophomore season, Obasih was a starter alongside fellow defensive end Connor Sheehy with James rotating in. After another year of improving his run defense though, James has been able to crack the starting lineup this season, with the three juniors, James, Sheehy and Obasih, rotating between the two starting spots each week.
“I have confidence in putting all three in. I think Alec’s done a great job over the past year to play the run. So it’s really brought him up to where Sheehy and Chikwe have been,” defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield said.
With a few years of experience under their belt, the Brookfield boys are becoming a main part of UW’s dominant front seven. James had a safety in Wisconsin’s dismantling of Akron, and the pair have been crucial in creating pressure that allows the stellar Badger linebackers to wreak the havoc they’re becoming nationally renowned for.
James and Obasih have also stepped up in a leadership role this season, and how they embrace that role aligns with their personalities.
“We all lead. Alec’s not much of a talker, sometimes I talk too much, so just showing the young guys what we need to do and lead the entire defense from the front … is how we help benefit our team,” Obasih said.
The pair are just a couple of cogs in the defense that is one of the best in the nation, but they are a representative sample, because they, like many of their starting teammates, have at least one year of eligibility left. Only three Wisconsin defensive starters are seniors, so the bulk of the group will be back for more after this year ends, and the players know that they have plenty of time left to develop.
“I think the sky’s the limit for us to be honest. We’ve gotta just stay humble, go one game at a time, not look forward and just put our heads down and work,” James said.
For now, James and Obasih aren’t thinking about the Badgers’ outside chance at the Big Ten title or the College Football Playoff. They’re just taking it one game at a time, trusting the longtime friend beside them will help get the win.