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Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Princewill Umanmielen Staying Focused on the Work Ahead of Freshman Season

July 08, 2023

Fan-favorite acclaim and rising expectations aren’t changing Princewill Umanmielen. The freshman edge rusher jumped onto the radar of Husker fans when he committed to Nebraska in December. He enrolled in the spring, where fans noted his potential. He was a 4-star recruit and now he’s in competition for big-time snaps this fall. All that hasn’t changed the soft-spoken, determined teenager.

Umanmielen spoke with Jessica Coody for a recent episode of Huskers Sports Nightly. At the time he was taking pictures and videos for video packages this upcoming season. The Manor, Texas, standout, whose family proudly celebrates its Nigerian heritage, braved the heatwave at the time for the hype videos. They’re typically not his scene but he’s warming up to them. He takes the same approach with those protein shakes he’s often handed. When asked if he likes them, he pauses for a beat to choose his honest answer.

“It’s not like I’m not a fan of them,” he told Coody. “But I know what it takes to gain weight so I’m going to do what it takes.”

Umanmielen has already gained 20 pounds since he arrived on campus in January. He wants to get to 250, even possibly 255 pounds. It’s worth noting the Nebraska football roster, freshly updated at the beginning of the month, lists him at 230 pounds. Gaining weight is a primary goal for him as he quickly adapts to his first collegiate football season. Spring provided some growing pains, working in a diverse defensive line room and against a veteran offensive line group. What he learned from those reps, he simply said, is that football is a grown game.

“Can’t be a little boy,” he said. “No matter what age you are, they’re going to look across from them and see their opponent. So you’ve got to go hard.”

He wanted to attack the spring because he didn’t sign with Nebraska to sit on the bench. He wanted to compete. Umanmielen finished the spring game with four tackles, 3.0 for loss and 1.0 sack. That performance provided a standard, one he’s constantly raising. He didn’t want to raise his ego too high after the Red-White Game and instead opted to focus on the work. That’s where he finds himself now, just a few weeks away from fall camp.

His approach is almost hereditary. It’s the way his brother, Princely, now at Florida, approaches the game. His oldest brother, Prince, played at Tarleton State in Nacogdoches, Texas, before transferring to Eastern Oklahoma. (They have a fourth brother, Princeton.) So the freshman edge rusher is no stranger to the recruiting process. In fact, head coach Matt Rhule recruited Princely while at Baylor. Princewill didn’t want to get into his brother’s decision-making process but thought Princely would have committed to Baylor if Rhule didn’t leave for the Carolina Panthers. That connection made his own recruiting process easier. Then Rhule showed up to Lady T’s Kitchen in Pflugerville, mother Umanmielen’s African restaurant, and tweeted a picture of his fufu. Princewill committed not long after.

“It helped a lot because I know what he’s about and I know what he can do,” Umanmielen said of their connection. “It was really like an easy decision.”

He’s now playing in a defense that excites him by allowing him to be athletic. He wants to come off the line to neutralize the run and rush the quarterback. Fellow new edge rushers Cameron Lenhardt and Kai Wallin also showed their potential in Tony White’s defense, working directly with defensive line coach Terrance Knighton. Umanmielen especially enjoys playing for Knighton, whose NFL experience and tutelage provides guidance for his own aspiration journey to the league. Their relationship extends beyond the goal posts, which is something Umanmielen also appreciates.

So the future’s bright for the young edge rusher. He’s excited about the new facility and all its potential. He promised the football team will spend much of its time in that new space. Beyond those shiny new things comes an exciting outlook for himself.

“Can’t be satisfied, can’t be lazy,” he said. The more I keep going the better I get. I’ve just got to keep staying motivated and keep pushing.”

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