Michael Chigbu can’t recall why he picked up football four years ago.
As a child, he grew up playing basketball and baseball. He watched football with his father but never took the field to play it competitively.
But since putting the pads on for the first time as a sophomore at New Orleans high school Holy Cross, Chigbu quickly has ascended his game to major-conference college football status.
As Chigbu sat in front of a group of reporters at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, it was apparent he made the right decision by trying football out.
“My sophomore year, I was just learning how to run with the pads on, the routes and everything, learning concepts, everything,” Chigbu said. “Then my junior year came around, and I started getting interest. This was kind of knew to me, I never knew what college interest was. But I humbled myself, and I kept on working. I kept on trying to get better.”
One area Chigbu has working in his favor is his size. At 6-foot-2 and 216 pounds, Chigbu brings a big body to the Georgia receiver position. He adds some size to a group that returned quite a few smaller wideouts.
Because of his height and bulk, Chigbu has a good chance to earn some major minutes on the field as a true freshman this season. During preseason practice, Chigbu has been working with the first five receivers.
“The thing about Michael is he’s a big, powerful guy,” Georgia offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “He’s the body type that you like. He can win matchups because he’s strong, physical -- got a very big catching radius.”
Chigbu’s first college offer was from Louisiana Tech a year after picking up the sport, and the soon-to-be sought-after prospect began picking up more attention. Programs such as Auburn, Miami, Clemson and Notre Dame came calling, and from there, Chigbu had his pick on where to play college football before picking the Bulldogs.
Chigbu’s primary recruiter from Georgia was Tony Ball, who is now the receivers coach at LSU. Ball made the move to the SEC West program after Chigbu signed his national letter-of-intent. Chigbu said it was a “business decision” and that he holds no hard feelings for Ball. Chigbu has since developed a rapport with receivers coach Bryan McClendon, who played the position at Georgia under head coach Mark Richt from 2002-05.
During his recruitment, Chigbu familiarized himself with the players on Georgia’s roster. Watching last year’s team, he saw how valuable Michael Bennett and Chris Conley were when the Bulldogs needed a play made in the passing game.
Chigbu said he probably projects similarly to a receiver such as Bennett, since he has a similar build and makeup to the former Georgia wideout.
“I run good routes. I’m not a blazer, but I get out of my breaks well for my size,” Chigbu said. “I guess I’m more Michael Bennett than Chris Conley, I would assume. My thing is I have to be consistent.”
Chigbu combined for 1,451 yards and 12 touchdowns during his final two high school seasons in New Orleans. Being a bigger receiver, one way Chigbu will be able to contribute is by blocking defensive backs in the running game.
Chigbu knew there would be an adjustment period at this level of football, considering he’s still fairly new to learning the nuances of the game.
“It’s about what I expected. It’s way more competition, better athletes, everything is way more faster,” Chigbu said. “We can’t rely on what we did in high school. Everything has to be precise.”