In his first game filling in for Von Miller, Attaochu had the Broncos’ only sack in loss to Tennessee
Fourteen years ago, Jeremiah Attaochu arrived at his new high school expecting to sign up for the sport he had been playing his entire life. Soccer.
Born in Nigeria before moving to the Washington, D.C., area with his family in 2001, he was all about “spinning that little ball,” as his father, Paul, would say. Jeremiah got in line with the rest of the students for a pre-practice physical. That’s when the freshman football coach spotted all 6-foot-1, 185 pounds of him.
“He basically told me I was playing football,” he said.
That conversation/request/demand produced the equivalent of the American Dream.
Immigrant. High school star. All-time sack leader at Georgia Tech. Second-round draft pick in the NFL. And, after starts and stops in his pro career, a prominent role on the Broncos’ defense. Signed last year when outside linebacker Bradley Chubb tore his ACL, Attaochu, 27, is a starter because of Von Miller’s ankle injury. In last week’s opener against Tennessee, Attaochu had four tackles, including a sack. He is expected to start Sunday at Pittsburgh.
It all started that day at Archbishop Carroll High School when Attaochu’s intention was to sign up for soccer. His father didn’t have any grandiose visions for where football would take the third-oldest of his four children.
“To me, it was just another activity,” he said. “I never expected any of this.”
Rough transition to U.S.
Paul Attaochu grew up in Nigeria and was part of a government-sponsored program in the 1980s that sent top students abroad for further education. Paul attended Wis.-Stout in Menomonie, Wis., and returned to his home country in 1985. His goal was immediate: Return to the United States.
“I had been here and seen the opportunities that exist and I felt it would be a great thing to move my family,” he said.
Paul returned to the United States in 1997, when Jeremiah was four years old. The Attaochu family was apart for nearly four years until Jeremiah, his two siblings and his mother joined Paul in Washington, D.C., in 2001.
Life wasn’t easy. Financial hardships. Cultural adaptation. A new language.