(Yes, you read correctly, he was a 3-star California high school senior unsigned- in fact, without an offer- in the month of March.)
There must've been some baggage, right? Maybe a grades issue? Off-field issue?
After playing five games of his junior season on a broken Tibia bone- before being sidelined for the remainder- Thierry Nguema was limited in showcasing himself early in the recruiting process. He didn't have much to put in his highlight reel.
Santiago Coach Mark Dye believes his cornerback could've been a 4-star had he had more to show. "He's one of the top corners in southern California. Period," said Dye. "Heck, the kid played on a broken leg and still performed."
"Because no one was able to see much of him, he didn't get any offers," Dye continued. "And so with schools, it became a matter of, 'well no one else has offered him, so we're not going to because there must be something wrong.'"
"Once someone starts getting offers, it makes everyone else comfortable and then everyone jumps."
After a strong spring outing, followed by a solid senior season in one of the top high school football conferences in the country, the 6-0, 175-pound CB began picking up interest from schools like Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Penn State, UCLA, and Washington.
But no one jumped.
Nguema said he was going to wait until summer at the latest to see if any scholarships freed up (with kids not qualifying academically, or kids backing out, changing schools, etc.) If nothing came along, he was going to go the junior college route.
"I was just trying to remain calm," said Nguema. "I trusted that the right school would come along at the right time. There were a lot of prayers being sent up."
It was a few weeks ago that both Nguema's and Texas Tech's were answered.
In need of cornerbacks, the Red Raiders had been extensively researching uncommitted ones, when they stumbled upon the California star.
"Coach Prunty said he found me online, saw some of my stats and highlights, and wanted to fly me out for a visit," said Nguema.
"I went to Lubbock last weekend and loved everything about it- the campus, the coaches, the facilities… The weather's a lot like California. It's nice… The coaches said they liked me, wanted me to be a part of their program, and they offered me."
"The ball started rolling really fast," said Dye. "They got to know him, found he was a quality kid (on and off the field), and it was good to go."
Biggest steal of the year? Maybe.
"Most guys that are corners at the college level are either runningbacks, wide receivers, or quarterbacks that were converted," said Dye. "One thing that makes Thierry so good is that, with 85 kids on our varsity roster, we had plenty of depth at each position. We really didn't need kids playing multiple positions. So Thierry spent all his time playing corner- concentrating on increasing his skill set at that position."
He's studied it so well and worked at it so much that he could play it in his sleep.
"The most important thing, though, is Thierry has things you can't teach," Dye continued. "You can't teach the hips to be fluid. You can't teach soft feet. You either have it or you don't. Thierry has it."
"Shoot, he could run on top of eggs and not break them. His feet are that soft."
(And fast-- runs a 4.42 forty)
"You can't teach those assets this late in the game. You pair all that with an excellent coaching staff, and it's on," concluded Dye.