That collective sigh of relief you just heard around the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex was Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich and secondary coach John Neal as they both learned their all-star cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu has decided to return to play for the Ducks in 2014.
Widely rumored to be hanging up his Oregon cleats for the NFL, Ekpre-Olomu released a statement through the University of Oregon’s official web site Monday morning confirming his decision to remain with the Ducks for his senior season.
“The two main factors related to my decision to return were my continued progression as a person and a player, and I felt Oregon was my best option to achieve those goals and improve my situation for next year,” Ekpre-Olomu said in his statement on Monday.
Ekpre-Olomu, a native of Chino Hills, California had said prior to the Valero Alamo Bowl he wanted to take time to speak with his family during bowl week and after the game to make the best decision for himself and his family.
Considered by most draft experts to be selected in the top 20 of this years NFL selection process, Ekpre-Olomu decided against departing early to finish his degree and continue to hone his skills to improve his draft stock.
“I should be able to finish my degree by next fall, possibly by the end of the summer” explained Ekpre-Olomu in the statement.
“Football is only one phase of who I am; …my degree will be forever. Secondly was my ability to make an impact and become a top ( draft) pick ), and I felt staying one more year would only help me.”
Ekpre-Olomu ended the 2013 season with 84 tackles ( 2nd most on the team ), and collected 3 interceptions which gives him 7 for his Oregon career.
Besides being named a ‘first-team all-American’ by ESPN, Ekpre-Olomu was also a second-team all-American according to no less than four organizations, including the prestigious Walter Camp Football Foundation.
Ekpre-Olomu joins quarterback Marcus Mariota and center Hroniss Grasu as juniors who decided to return to Oregon for the 2014 season.
With his return to the Oregon secondary, defensive backs coach John Neal and the yet to be named new defensive coordinator now have a returning veteran to help stabilize what would have been a completely depleted secondary with the departure of underclassman CB Terrance Mitchell, ( to the NFL ) and graduating safeties Avery Patterson and Brian Jackson.
Ekpre-Olomu returns this fall with a total of 30 passes broken up, which is 8th all time at Oregon. His seven career interceptions also places him five shy of entering the top 10 in that category as a Duck.
VIDEO: Watch a collection of Ekpre-Olomu’s highlights from his freshman and sophomore years by clicking on the image shown above.