EDMOND — As a defensive coordinator at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, Steve Patterson was all too familiar with Jermelle Cudjo, one of the Bronchos’ best players on defense. He tried to sway Cudjo to Miami, losing the battle but not the war.
"I tried to get him out of Lawton MacArthur, and he picked UCO,” Patterson said. "But I still get to coach him anyway.”
Their paths crossed again when Patterson came to UCO. Football coaches don’t often gush about their players, but Patterson has trouble finding much of anything Cudjo (6-2, 300) does wrong.
"He’s a great young man with great character,” Patterson said. "He goes to class. He makes good grades, and on top of that he’s a great football player. He’s special.”
The senior is a pre-season All-American after finishing last year with 60 tackles and 4.5 sacks. He wants a little more for himself and for UCO’s "Code Red” defense.
"Code red is preparation, playing hard, max speed and finishing,” Cudjo said. "If we do that all the time I don’t think anyone can beat us. We’ve had a lot of intensity, and we’ve bonded. Everyone is on the same page.”
Pre-season rankings will be tested when UCO heads to Pittsburg State Saturday night for its opener. The Gorillas are an NCAA Division II top 10 team. UCO started off 0-4 last year.
"We’ve been preparing for this game all summer,” Cudjo said. "Last year we started off slow because the offense was new, but after everyone bought into it we won seven straight. That should carry over.”