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Posted: August 6, 2011 5:01 p.m.

Justice is served

Former Ram Justice Ejike eyes his opportunity at Ga. Southern

Former Newton defensive end Justice Ejike was the unequivocal leader of the Rams defense in 2009. He was their best player on that side of the ball. He was so good, he also played offensive line. Fast forward two years and he has a new role, one he isn't too familiar with.

Ejike earned a scholarship to Georgia Southern that spring but spent his first year in Statesboro on the sidelines — a spectator. Such is the life of a redshirt freshman. A year later, Ejike is hungry for his chance to prove what he can do.

Ejike practiced with the team throughout the 2010 season but that was as much action he saw. Not accustomed to riding the pine so-to-speak, he showed a glimpse of why Southern gave him a scholarship in the recent spring game when he had two tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble.

"It felt pretty good just being in the lights again and getting a chance to shine," Ejike said. "It was discouraging to go through camp and then have to redshirt. I did everything but play last year. It was definitely humbling. But it felt good to get out there and

Ejike has always been a confident player but having to sit by idly last season gave him a new perspective. He is still confident in has ability but also knows at that level, everyone has talent.

"You realize there are more athletes out there than in high school," Ejike said. "There's a big difference in the talent pool. And the speed of the game is so much faster. The athletes are bigger, stronger and faster. It's a whole different game."

Ejike has added 30 pounds of muscle since leaving Newton and continues to work on the defensive line. While he may not have the size to play defensive tackle at a major Division 1 school like a Nebraska or Florida, he fits Georgia Southern smaller but quicker defensive scheme well.

"Our whole defense is downsized," he said. "We are predicated on speed. I'm not fast enough to play linebacker so the coaches didn't try to convert me. Plus I've put on all this weight so I'll still play on the line."

Even though Ejike sat out his first year and was admittedly frustrated, it's not uncommon for freshman to be relegated to redshirt status. The practice he put in will only help him as he competes for playing time this season. Ejike could have gone to a smaller school and played right away, but Georgia Southern has a winning tradition and he is comfortable knowing he'll get his shot when the time is right.

"I don't have any regrets going to Georgia Southern, none at all," he said. "Coaches will take a lesser athlete with discipline who works hard and give them an opportunity. When I first arrived last year, it was a big shock. But I was ready to handle it. Now I am ready to show I can play."

show what I can do."

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