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Citizen - TTU MAN OF THE YEAR Ordu leads by example
Story by Thomas Corhern
COOKEVILLE -- If you listen to several people around the Tennessee Tech football program, they'll all tell you that senior linebacker Kelechi Ordu is a quiet person.
That doesn't make him any less of a leader.
In fact, it's quite the opposite, using a take-charge mentality and just getting work done, leaving him as an inspiration to his Tech football teammates.
His leadership skills are one of the biggest reasons Ordu has been selected at Tech Athletics' 2011 Man of the Year.
"I'm honored," Ordu said. "I thank God because he gave me the skill to play football. Just to be able to win the award, that's a huge honor."
Ordu beat out seven other nominees for the athletic department's most prestigious award: Joseph DeLorenzo (cross country), Dustin Dillehay (football), Jared Dobbs (baseball), Lloyd Harris (tennis), Charles Newton (basketball), Chad Oberacker (baseball) and Ben Shassere (cross country).
Ordu is the 12th recipient of the award from the Golden Eagle football progam, joining some distinctive company: Willie Queen (1995), Gerald Bentley (1996), Robert Taylor (1997), Jeff Norman (1998), T.J. Christian (1999), Wes Gallagher (2000), Grant Swallows (2002), Brett Vavra (2005), David McMahan (2006), Anthony Ash (2007) and Bradley Thompson (2009).
"I've talked to you about him before," said Tech football coach Watson Brown. "He's just a great kid. You'd love your children to be Kelechi. He just does everything right and in a classy way. He's overcome a lot here and I think the world of him. There's no doubt about that. Everywhere you turn, you just see one class young man."
It wasn't a surprise to Ordu as one of the first people on the field and the last one to come off, and he spent countless hours in the weight room trying to get better, stronger and faster. His diligence there earned him a spot as a Strength and Conditioning All-American.
His weight room efforts even earned him the nickname, "The Freak," because of his amazing feats, which landed him on top of the Iron Eagle leaderboard.
He was also a student of the game, spending just as much time in the film room, studying formations and coming up with ways to solve them.
But the side of Ordu that was most impressive was his willingness to help out and give back. In his hometown of Atlanta, Ordu worked with a youth group who passed out food and water to the homeless of the city.
"Doing the outreach program with the homeless was something that my sister and I started back in Atlanta as a way to show God's grace," Ordu said. "It was a way to be able to reach out to them and it was really cool. Doing that and being able to be a light to people and to my teammates, it's something that I always wanted to be big on. To take part in what God showed me to do is important and I've been doing that since my freshman year through football bible studies and help them grow as young men. That's just something I've always strived to do."
Brown said, "He's a people person. He wants to help people. I really believe that he's one of those guys who'd rather help someone else than help himself. He's a very quiet young man. Yeah, his off-the-field ways may be even stronger than his on-the-field ways, yet he's as good of a worker as anyone we have."
His community service wasn't just in his hometown as he also worked hard around the Tech campus as well. He was active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the university's Chi Alpha fraternity, was a race mentor for the Black Cultural Center and was a department mentor for the Exercise-Physical Wellness department.
Leadership was a skill Ordu seemed to have as an instinct, knowing how to inspire his teammates. That made Ordu an obvious pick as one of the team's captains.
"It's something that I've learned over the years," Ordu said. "I've also picked it up from the leaders I've had in my life, people who have been leaders to me and team leaders that I've seen on the team this year -- I've been able to take bits and pieces of that and see how they led and learn from it."
Brown said, "Whatever you asked him to do, whatever he thought would help out the team, he would do those on his own. He wasn't the rah-rah type at all. He's a quiet kid. He did a lot of things by example, but everybody on this team, he had their respect. Everybody. That's a good leader. He played absolutely up to his abilities. You knew what you were going to get out of Kelechi every week. He was never one of those up-and-down guys. He played up to his abilities week-in and week-out, no matter what the competition was."
Not only did he lead by example, he also led through the teachings of the Bible. Ordu was the co-leader of the team's Bible studies. One story told during the selection committee's meeting was that Ordu would leave inspiring passages in his teammates' lockers, pumping them up for the game.