By Rob Moseley
Two-time all-conference cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will return to Oregon for his senior season, he said Monday, the first day of winter term at the university.
Ekpre-Olomu joins quarterback Marcus Mariota and center Hroniss Grasu in passing up this year’s NFL draft to play another season with the Ducks. The team did lose running back De'Anthony Thomas and cornerback Terrance Mitchell as early entries this month.
Ekpre-Olomu, a native of Chino Hills, Calif., was Oregon’s second-leading tackler with 84 stops in 2013, and he added three interceptions to give him seven for his career. He earned first-team all-America status from ESPN and was a second-team all-America according to no less than four organizations, including the prestigious Walter Camp Football Foundation.
“The two main factors related to my decision to return were my continued progression as a person and a player, and I felt Oregon was my best option to achieve those goals and improve my situation for next year,” Ekpre-Olomu said Monday.
“I should be able to finish my degree by next fall, possibly by the end of the summer. Football is only one phase of who I am; my degree will be forever. Secondly was my ability to make an impact and become a top (draft) pick, and I felt staying one more year would only help me.”
Given Mitchell’s early departure, the Ducks were at risk of losing their entire starting secondary from 2013, as safeties Brian Jackson and Avery Patterson were seniors. Instead, Ekpre-Olomu will anchor the group, bringing a streak of 27 consecutive starts into the 2014 opener, Aug. 30 at home against South Dakota.
"His return, along with Marcus and Hroniss, sets the foundation for the leadership of this team," UO coach Mark Helfrich said. "That's on top of his exceptional abilities on the field, and the fact he's a great teammate."
Ekpre-Olomu will enter his senior season with 30 career pass breakups, eighth all-time at Oregon, in stats going back to 1971. His seven interceptions are five shy of placing Ekpre-Olomu in the Ducks’ career top 10.