Rice safety Chike Anigbogu has had a rich tapestry of influences on his life, which have shaped and formed the man behind the football player that you see on a Saturday. His own hard work and determination have been supported and inspired by the communities that raised him – communities that he now works tirelessly to support through a range of charitable endeavors.
Community is Everything for Rice Safety Chike Anigbogu
“I think it’s everything,” Anigbogu explains his thoughts on community, from the ones that helped raise and define him, to the ones that he now uses his platform as a college football player to work tirelessly to represent and give back to.
“You’re a product of the people that you’re around. Being able to build that foundation of people that have given so much to you, it’s really important to be able to show them your appreciation for the work that they’ve done, to respect all the work they’ve done.”
“Especially for me, for making me the man that I am. There’s no way I could be in this position without the thousands of people that helped me. Just being able to repay them with my acts, it’s the least I can do, honestly.”
Anigbogu recognizes the impact those communities and people have had on him, at a time when he’s receiving recognition for his community endeavors.
The Rice safety was recently nominated for the 32nd AllState Good Works team, as a result of his community contributions, charitable endeavors, impact in the local area, and academic success.
His story of going from a walk-on at Rice to leading the team in special teams snaps during the 2022 season is inspirational in its own right, especially when you consider his off-field contributions. It doesn’t take long, talking to the Owls’ special teams standout and safety, to discover where the inspiration to succeed comes from.
Sacrifice. It’s a common theme that runs through the 25 minutes that Anigbogu spends with College Football Network, a little over one month out from a 2023 campaign where he has his sights set on becoming the AAC Special Teams Player of the Year in the Owls’ first season in a new conference.
It’s also the cornerstone of understanding the man behind the helmet and—for this season—the number seven Rice jersey.
Born in Texas to Nigerian parents, Anigbogu is closely connected to his heritage and the understanding of the hardships faced that allowed him the opportunities he enjoys today. His desire and drive to be involved in initiatives like the Houston Food Bank are directly linked to the experiences that his parents faced.
“Seeing how hard my parents worked,” Anigbogu explains the motivation behind his community work. “They grew up in Nigeria, their life was a lot harder than mine is. The sacrifices they make every day to make my life easier. It’s really simple for me, all I have to worry about is football and school so giving back to the community is my way of giving back.”
Julian and Ogonna Anigbogu provided more than just the motivation for Chike to give back to the community. Despite battling their own hardships, they were visible leaders in their community endeavors.
“From as early as I can remember, my parents have been really involved in community service, community projects through church, with the food bank. We have a group in Nigeria, the Nigerians of Houston, and we go to the food bank every year. That’s something that’s been really special since moving to Houston, with our family and family friends as well.”
Between being born in Austin, spending some of his childhood in Beijing, China, and making annual visits back to Nigeria to celebrate his birthday, Anigbogu has had a rich confluence of influences from which to draw as he’s developed as a football player, as a man, and as a force for positivity in his community.
His appreciation for the impact others have had on him led him to another opportunity to give back.
In his work with the Career Readiness Panel at Westbury Highlands, he uses his experiences to help high school students—and student-athletes—prepare for the next step in their lives.
“In my life, I’ve had fantastic mentors that have really paved the way for me, laid out the groundwork on how to be a pro about my business, how to simplify my life, how to be consistent in my process. Any way that I’m able to pass on that information to people who are aspiring to be in my position or have dreams of helping out their family. Any way I can pass that on, I’ll do that.”
A Mental Health Advocate and Standout Academic
Alongside his community work with the Houston Food Bank and the Career Readiness Panel, Anigbogu has established himself as a mental health advocate and participated in a mental health awareness campaign at Rice. There’s a wisdom to his words that can be equally applied to sportsmen and women as they can to anyone who might need help.
“I think the first step in getting rid of the stigma is knowing that it’s ok to talk about your feelings,” Anigbogu explains his work with raising awareness of mental health issues.
“No one’s Superman. Everyone is going through something. Finding ways to connect with guys, doesn’t have to be about sports, just breaking bread and getting to know people. Someone may have the answers to your questions, you might have the answers for them.”
“It’s really easy for us as athletes to put all of our intent and emotions solely based on our performances in our sport, which can be up and down every day. So, if you find things that help you stay grounded, things that you’re really passionate about, that can help you in all aspects of your life, I feel like.”
Anigbogu has a laundry list of things that help him stay grounded as he prepares for his fifth season with Rice. He’ll cook you up some seafood, with shrimp fried rice a specialty, before beating you at bowling or on the Wii. Right now, he’s heavily invested in paddleboarding when he’s not training, involved in community projects, or excelling in the classroom.
A multi-year honor roll student during the Owls’ time in Conference USA, academic success is, of course, a way to provide a future for himself for whenever his football journey comes to an end. However, it’s also another way that Anigbogu can repay the community influences that have helped shape him.
“Especially in my family, academics are everything. It’s funny, growing up they cared about my academics more than my football because it was always engrained in me that “you can’t go anywhere without the grades.” Everyone in my family, especially on my dad’s side, are high up, they’re all doctors, etc. They kind of laid the groundwork for me to where I had to work.”
“You’re inspired by those around you so having great role models like my parents, who worked tirelessly, it’s just a way for me to hold up my end of the bargain.”
No Limit to Anigbogu’s Achievements
When his football journey is done, Anigbogu wants to continue to give back by helping athletes overcome injuries and maximize their sporting achievements.
Before then, he has his redshirt senior season at Rice to complete, with a team of talented players who are inspiring each other to find success in their first season in the AAC.
“We have a bunch of guys who have done a lot of special things,” Anigbogu enthuses as we switch gears to football, “a bunch of guys who have been working really hard, really detailed in their process, stepping up as leaders. Guys like Josh Pearcy, Myron Morrison, Gabe [Taylor], JT [Daniels] has been a great guy who’s come in and put a lot of work to lead this offense.”
“Luke [McCaffrey], JoVoni [Johnson-McCray], Izeya Floyd, Tyson Thompson. Just a bunch of guys that I think have been really putting in the work, the time, the effort, and are dedicated to seeing this team do things that we haven’t really seen here. I’m really excited.”
The excitement for the 2023 college football campaign somewhat brings Anigbogu’s time at Rice full circle. He arrived in 2019 from Ridge Point High School, where the motto was, and still is, “There is no limit to what we can achieve.”
It’s a motto that the Rice safety applies to all aspects of his life, from football to academics and to his work in the community.
“If you’re willing to put in the hard work, if you’re willing to sacrifice and be intentional about your work, you can achieve anything that you want to. It’s really simpler than it sounds. If you have the hard work, the dedication, the will to, you can do anything you want to. I truly believe that.”
Anigbogu has been raised, nurtured, and influenced by the sacrifice and hard work of the community around him. Now, he’s intentional about his own sacrifice and hard work to benefit the community that has meant everything to him.