Sydney Omameh brings depth, experience to GVSU football

GVL/Kevin Sielaff - Sydney Omameh (3) looks toward the sideline for direction. Grand Valley defeats Tiffin with a final score of 45-7 on Thursday, September 1, 2016 at Lubbers Stadium.

Kevin Sielaff

GVL/Kevin Sielaff – Sydney Omameh (3) looks toward the sideline for direction. Grand Valley defeats Tiffin with a final score of 45-7 on Thursday, September 1, 2016 at Lubbers Stadium.

Beau Troutman

Sydney Omameh was a headache for Grand Valley State coaches.

In 2014, the former Ohio Dominican defensive end scored the first points of a 28-24 Panthers’ win with a 25-yard blocked kick returned for a touchdown. Last season, he had three tackles for loss against the Lakers.

In 2016, though, he’ll be suiting up in Laker blue.

“There’s always a good thing about when you get a guy that’s productive and can make some plays, and especially harass the quarterback,” said GVSU defensive line coach E.J. Whitlow. “Now you got him wearing a Laker uniform, that’s definitely a good thing for us.”

Omameh joined GVSU this year as a graduate transfer for his final year of eligibility. He adds a considerable amount of depth to a defensive line that is counting on the entire unit to replace the production lost by Matt Judon’s departure to the NFL.

Omameh started his first game in a Laker uniform in the season-opener win over Tiffin, and registered three tackles and half a sack from the defensive end spot. Having just arrived in Allendale the day before fall camp last August, Omameh says the transition to his new home has gone smooth.

“I wouldn’t say its been a rush. I didn’t come here to sit on the bench,” he said. “(Starting) is something I expected and am ready for.”

Omameh decided to transfer largely because of a coaching overhaul at ODU after his redshirt junior season. He graduated from ODU with a degree in international business, and got the process started shortly thereafter.

Bill Conley, his coach at ODU who left the program, helped him during the process. Omameh originally had his sights set on a Division I program, and initially committed to Kent State of the MAC. However, Omameh found out his Division I time clock—the limit on semesters of athletic participation allotted to a student athlete—had run out, and would have to settle for a Division II program.

Having spent four years in the GLIAC, GVSU was a logical choice for someone with Omameh’s aspirations. Not only was he attracted to a team that was coming off of a national semifinal appearance, but he also saw what current Baltimore Raven and Lakers’ all-time sack-leader Matt Judon was able to do as a defensive end in the GVSU defense.

“The main reason is really the tradition of excellence, just the coaching staff here, coach (Matt) Mitchell, coach Whitlow, that was really a big part of the decision in coming here,” Omameh said. “I feel like (Judon’s success) is definitely something that pushed me in that direction coming here, giving me the opportunity to maybe do the same things he accomplished in his career.”

Omameh—an Ohio native—was also encouraged to go to GVSU by his brother Patrick, a former offensive lineman at the University of Michigan and current lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the NFL.

Omameh (16.5 career sacks at ODU) is part of an experienced defensive line that features senior defensive tackles DéOndre Hogan and Mark Rosenquist, senior defensive end Alton Voss and sophomore defensive end Dylan Carroll, who led the team with 1.5 sacks in the season opener.

If the Lakers are to replace Judon’s production, Whitlow says it has to be by committee.

“You can’t replace a guy like Matt with just one guy,” Whitlow said. “It has to be a committee. I think we all understand that, that every single guy is one-eleventh of the defense, and make the plays that you’re supposed to make. It’s not going to be one guy that makes 60 great plays, just make one great play 60 times.”

Omameh struggled with injuries to his quad tendon the last two seasons, but say he’s “110 percent” now. For his last year of college football, he has a very narrow focus on what he wants to accomplish.

“I’m really focused on just doing the best I can in school, helping this team win,” he said. “That’s first and foremost is helping this football team win. Along with winning will come one of my goals, just to play at the next level, the NFL.”

The Lakers play ODU Oct. 1, and Omameh will have to suit up against his former team for the first and only time.

“I’m pretty excited for it,” Omameh said. “It’s definitely going to be exciting, a fun game.”