The Seattle Seahawks lost to the Los Angeles Rams at home on Sunday, but for a lot of these Rams, it was similar to a home game for them as well.
Pacific Northwest ties run deep on the Rams roster. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who left the game early with a concussion, went to Oregon State. Back-up quarterback, Sean Mannion, and punter, Johnny Hekker, were Beavers, too, while cornerback Troy Hill went to University of Oregon. Cooper Kupp, wide receiver, is from Yakima, WA and went to Eastern Washington University. There are also some Oregon high school connections. Tight ends coach, Shane Waldron, went to LaSalle High School, defensive end Ndamukong Suh went to Grant High School and starting outside linebacker, Samson Ebukam, went to David Douglas High School.
Ebukam has been a starter for the entire season for the Los Angeles Rams. Los Angeles drafted him in the fourth round of the 2017 draft out of Eastern Washington University. He played in all 16 games as a rookie and finished his season with 20 tackles, 2.0 sacks, and one forced fumble.
Ebukam moved to Portland from Nigeria when he was 9-years-old. He didn’t speak English when he first got to America so his first four months in Portland were spent in front of a television. He had never played American football before and gave it a shot in middle school.
At David Douglas High School, he was a state runner-up in the shot put and javelin. He was a two-way starter on the football team playing fullback, running back, tight end and defensive end. Ebukam flew under the radar when it came to football, garnering offers from only Eastern Washington and Portland State.
“I didn’t go to many football camps in high school because we couldn’t afford it. I went to one football camp and played a lot at that camp. The best offer I had was Eastern Washington and it was the best decision I ever made,” Ebukam said in the locker room following the Rams 33-31 victory over the Seahawks. “All the big schools everyone wants to go to have a lot of distractions. I was able to focus at Eastern just on my studies and football. Thanks to God, I was able to make it to the league.”
Even though his days as a Scot are far behind him, he still remembers them fondly. Team dinners stick out as the main memory from his high school days but also a 2012 matchup against South Salem High School. The teams had played in 2009 in the first round of the state playoffs and the Saxons won that game 37-13 at home. The 2012 rematch was one Ebukam recalls well, “I remember when we beat the crap out of South Salem. It was a revenge match. I went off on both offense and defense,” he chuckled. “Yeah, that was a good game I won’t forget that one.”
Ebukam said he still stays in touch with his high school coach, Dan Wood, and tries to see him whenever he makes it out to Portland. His family still lives in Portland and was in the stands today in Seattle. “I had about nine people come today. It’s always good to be close to home,” Ebukam said. “I definitely didn’t miss the weather – all of these clouds are irritating because I’m so used to the sun all the time now [in Los Angeles]. It’s good to be back though, it really is.”
The Rams are 5-0 on the season and Ebukam simply says the ride so far, “has been amazing.” But even though the Rams were able to hang on and win on Sunday, he was frustrated that he did not record a sack on quarterback Russell Wilson. “I missed two sacks today and I’m kind of salty about that. Russell Wilson wants to be Russell Wilson and run 15-yards on me. I’m going to get one on him some day, that will be the start.”
From Nigeria to Portland and now a starter for an undefeated team in the National Football League, it’s fair to say Ebukam started a long time ago, but to him, the journey is just beginning.