The cornerback position in football is largely a thankless position to the masses. They operate on the peripheries of every play. Split out wide against bigger, faster receivers, cornerbacks have perhaps the most demanding position on the football field. They are only truly recognized by everyone when they make a play that really only occurs when an offensive quarterback makes the mistake of passing to him.
Wide receivers now are bigger and faster than ever. Often topping six feet in height, receivers have the benefit of being able to run forward throughout the duration of a play. They know whether a play is a run or a pass and tend to have a couple inches and more than a few pounds advantage on defensive backs.
Defensive backs on the other hand have to be faster than wide receivers because they are in a position where they react. However, the backs often start backpedaling and have to read and react to a variety of circumstances. Not only that, but with the number of penalties that restrict what a defender can do outweigh the restrictions on receivers. It takes a truly special athlete who makes up for their height and weight deficiency with foot speed and an outstanding vertical jump. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is one of those special players.
Ekpre-Olomu was a true sophomore last season and entered the 2012 campaign in the shadow of Terrance Mitchell who proved to be a lockdown corner. One of the reasons that Ekpre-Olomu's talents became so evident last year is because teams didn't want to throw at Mitchell, instead opting to pick on Ekpre-Olomu who is listed as two inches shorter than Terrance and lighter. Ekpre-Olomu met those challenges head on totaling 6 forced fumbles, four interceptions, and knocking down twenty passes.
Ifo Ekpre-Olumu 2012 Highlights (via madmike1951)
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a defensive back that plays bigger than he is. I don't recall seeing a defensive back that is as aggressive playing the ball in the air with the receiver than Ifo. It's like one of those kung fu movies where the fighters are mid-air and still throwing combos.
Perhaps the most impressive thing Ifo Ekpre-Olomu does is close. His closing speed is so ferocious that I think there might be a rip in the space-time continuum every time he breaks for the ball. When you take in to account the equation of force equals mass times acceleration you get a lot of receivers who get separated from the football.
A lot of people count out the defensive backs before weighing the strengths of the back. This happens a lot in other sports too. Many people forget that Muhammad Ali was a big underdog to George Foreman in the Rumble in the Jungle. Foreman was too big and hit too hard for an Ali that was a 7-1 underdog. I highly recommend watching the 1996 documentary We Were Kings on the Rumble in the Jungle. One of my favorite parts of the documentary is the footage of Ali running through the villages of Zaire with the villagers yelling "Ali, Bomaye!" as he ran buy, which translates to "Ali, kill him!" While it is a figure of speech it was great to see a village who Ali claimed as his own to support him when Ali was such a big underdog.
Ali boma ye (via FistulofYen)
Last year Ifo was a question mark coming in to the season but he eventually turned in to one of the stars. Terrance Mitchell was rarely thrown at since he was a lockdown corner and opponents thought they could pick on Ekpre-Olomu. By mid-season I was begging people to throw at Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. If the other team thought they could go after him, fine, let them make that mistake.
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu plays a rather thankless position. Defensive backs are most often seen getting beat on inside slants, losing coverage over the top on deep routes, or giving too much space when defending a curl route. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu takes the disadvantages in height and weight and even the systematic rules of football that enable offenses to score while stripping defenders of many techniques, and turns them on his head. The modern defensive back starts out as a huge underdog in both size and systematic rules and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu still fights the power every time he contests a ball at its highest point and breaks on a weak pass for a pick-six. That is why we watch Ifo. Hopefully the defensive back position will be recognized more and people might say, "Ifo, Bomaye!" after a pick-six this next season.