by Rob Moseley
During interviews, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu comes across as a young man who chooses his words carefully and betrays little emotion — not the sort of bombast you see from the stereotypical cornerback.
In that regard he might seem an odd choice to become a face and voice of the Oregon football program. But that's about to be the case, as Ekpre-Olomu arrives in Los Angeles early this morning and will stay through Friday representing the Ducks at Pac-12 Media Day.
Ekpre-Olomu, a third-team all-American in 2012, will join UO head coach Mark Helfrich and quarterback Marcus Mariota at the event. He'll film interviews and promotional spots with the conference network this afternoon, and then take the podium with Helfrich and Mariota to face media at Sony Pictures Studios on Friday.
"I enjoy it — to an extent," Ekpre-Olomu said Tuesday evening, as he walked to the locker room following a conditioning session on Oregon's new turf practice fields. "I'm not really somebody that cares about being all over TV. Of course it's an honor every time you see yourself, because growing up you wanted to be that person. I love doing anything with football, and helping our team any way. …
"It's just an honor that the coaches respect me enough to represent the entire defense. That's a big role."
A big role that Ekpre-Olomu more than earned with his play last season.
Entering his true sophomore year, Ekpre-Olomu was the less-heralded member of a cornerback duo that also included classmate Terrance Mitchell. Ekpre-Olomu turned that on its head over the course of 2012, leading the Pac-12 with six forced fumbles and 20 passes defended, including four interceptions.
Suddenly, everybody knew his name, and everybody wanted to talk with him, after games and practices.
Getting so much attention "was a little bit different," Ekpre-Olomu said. "But from freshman year to sophomore year — I had all the ability freshman year, I just wasn't able to put it all together. Last year I was able to keep my confidence and keep my focus throughout the whole season. That really helped me."
The attention continues to flood his way entering 2013. Ekpre-Olomu made the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik Award and the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as most outstanding defensive player in the nation, and for the Jim Thorpe Award as most outstanding defensive back.
"I think that changes my focus a lot," Ekpre-Olomu said. "It just makes you want to work even harder. Now, of course you're going to have a target on your back, because you're seen as one of the best. That only makes you want to get better. If you're maintaining the same skills, people are going to be passing you up."
And along with the preseason hype, there's speculation that after this season Ekpre-Olomu will be tempted to leave Oregon for the NFL. He's been widely projected as a first-round draft pick in 2014, should he chose to pass up his senior year.
"I've seen a lot of that," he said. "I've put some thought into it, but it's nothing I'm taking real serious yet, until after the school year. Right now I'm worried about finishing the season, and finishing my degree. With the credits I have, I'm ahead of schedule, so I'm going to have the opportunity to graduate and of course I want to finish school."
For the record, Ekpre-Olomu is a general social science major. With all the exposure he's about to get, some public relations classes might have come in handy, too.