Monday, June 13, 2011

Burbank Post Three, Obscurity Part Two - Ifeanyi Ohalete

When I first heard about Ifeanyi Ohalete back in 03 or 04, I couldn't believe how cool his name was! This led me to follow his career until it ended a few short years later. Now Ohalete only had 5 years in the NFL and he played defense, so I didn't think he'd have that many cards to his name. He actually has a stunning 5 distinct cards, one 2001 Leaf Rookies and Stars card where he appears alone, and then these four Topps Total cards that cover his career from 2003 to 2006:
I thought it was pretty cool that Ohalete's career was captured by Topps Total in this way, so I figured I'd show the cards off year by year and give you a little walk through one obscure player's timeline.

2003 Topps Total #439 w/ Matt Bowen:
The back of this card for Ohalete mentions how he "moved past Sam Shade during 2002 to start at strong safety for Washington," which included starting the final 10 games of the season. With 3 interceptions and nice special team play, it seemed like Ohalete was on the up and up in Washington. Matt Bowen, on the other hand, was just signed by the Redskins from the Packers, and Topps Total didn't have high hopes for him. What a difference a year would make.

2004 Topps Total #251 w/ Matt Bowen:
The back of Ohalete's '04 Total card is pretty optimistic, showing his 103 tackles and mentioning how he is "a rising star among NFL Strong Safeties." What the card back fails to mention, however, is that many of his other numbers dropped from his 2002 season, and that the 2004 offseason brought lots of drama to Ohalete's life. Clinton Portis was traded to Washington during the 03-04 offseason, and he really wanted Ohalete's #26. They worked out a deal, but Ohalete said that Portis forced payment and it all got pretty awkward. In the end it was all for naught, as the Redskins cut Ohalete and gave his job to a combination of Ryan Clark and Bowen. Ohalete moved on to the Arizona Cardinals.

2005 Topps Total #8 w/ Adrian Wilson:
Sharing a card with Adrian Wilson is pretty impressive, so kudos to Ohalete for this one. Problem is that this represents a few shifts for Ohalete, both from SS to FS since Wilson was one of the top SS's in the league, and from #26 to #25 since Ohalete was switching teams. He did his best in 2004, with only 65 tackles and no interceptions over 13 starts. But as the card back mentions, "Vet Robert Griffith has been added to (the free safety) mix this season." Griffith did indeed take the job and spent his final two years in Arizona, while Ohalete moved on to his third and final team, the Cincinnati Bengals.

2006 Topps Total #38 2/ Kevin Kaesviharn and David Pollack:
The real funny part of this card is that Ifeanyi has now morphed to Ifeanyl, which is incorrect. I guess that's what happens when you're on your way out of the league?

Thing is, '05 was a good season for Ohalete in some ways, as he moved back to SS and got his #26 back with the Bengals. His stats were just okay though, with 56 tackles and one interception over 12 starts after taking over for Kaesviharn, who was filling in for injured FS Madieu Williams. Williams obviously came back from injury for his starting role, pushing Kaesviharn into competition with Ohalete at SS once again. But then things got tougher. As the card back mentions, "If Ohalete re-signs with the Bengals, he faces competition to retain his starting job at SS from Dexter Johnson, signed away from Tampa Bay." Jackson won the job, and split time with Kaesviharn from 2006 on with the Bengals.

As for Ohalete, he was cut and never played in the NFL again. He did play with the New York Dragons of the AFL in 2007, where he was 2nd on the team in tackles, but since then has been out of football all together. It's a shame he never made it in the league, as he had a very cool name and seemed to play well in the right places, particularly in 2003 with Washington. But at least he got to be on a bunch of card releases, which is more than you can say for most obscure defensive backs (particularly the next guy on this list!).

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