Rookie still on a roll

Posted: 3:55 p.m.

If his rookie season turned out to be a whirlwind trip from an April flyer to a December keeper, then Chinedum Ndukwe's rookie offseason is a cross-country tour lurching between college and the real world.

It is 11 a.m., Cincinnati time on Super Tuesday and Ndukwe is speaking from Tulsa, Okla., in the back of a tour bus while one of his lifelong buddies and college chums that just happens to be Browns quarterback Brady Quinn is up front watching a movie.

But this isn't a campaign stop. This was a stop to get away from the campaign.

The bus, on the return from the Super Bowl, isn't slowing down for Ndukwe, though. He has postponed this week's trip to his ancestral home in Nigeria so he can take a week's worth of courses at Harvard Business School.

"There are going to be a lot of big names from the business world and it's a great way to get started," Ndukwe says. "Now I'm going to try and get to Nigeria during that month before we go to training camp."

If this sounds like the agenda of the young name professional across your street rather than the schedule of a young guy with a professional nameplate across his back it's because Ndukwe didn't step out of NFL Network's central casting.

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Ndukwe

That doesn't mean he and his buddies don't watch NFL Network. They've got satellite on the bus and have been watching it all trip, along with movies and anything else that comes across the big screen.

Also on the trip is Ndukwe's older brother Ikechuku, a guard for the Dolphins, as well a group of Notre Dame buddies that includes Cincinnati broker Brian Vithe and a medical supply salesman Ndukwe and Quinn knew at Coffman High School in suburban Columbus, Ohio.

Which, by the way, is where this odyssey started a few weeks ago and wound through the 'Nati on the way to a house in the desert Quinn rented.

"Since my brother is a big o-lineman, we've been eating pretty well," Ndukwe says. "We went to a barbecue place in Memphis, a Mexican place in Dallas (to see college teammate and Cowboys tight end Anthony Fasano), and on our way back we stopped at a family dinner in Albuquerque. It's a great way to see the country and catch up with these guys."

This could be Animal House Tours, but the boys from Notre Dame seem pretty level headed, although Ndukwe admits he can't repeat some of the funnier things they have seen.

"I'd say we're pretty legit," he says.

But there has been plenty of time for locker-room busting between watching movies like Hot Fuzz and Shooter..

Especially after a season Quinn ended up sitting behind Pro Bowler Derek Anderson, and Ndukwe, a seventh-round strong safety, finished with three interceptions, two sacks and a fumble return for a touchdown. Naturally, two of the interceptions came off Anderson in the Bengals' 19-14 victory over Cleveland in his first NFL start in the next-to-last game of the season.

"Yeah, we go back and forth on that. Who's been on the field more and all that," Ndukwe says. "I told him I did my best to help him."

Ndukwe is into helping himself right now with the stint at Harvard, but he is looking to use it on others.

Long before he racked up stats in multiple categories Ndukwe was a dual threat at Notre Dame with marketing and psychology majors. He hopes the trip to The Yard is going to help give him the tools to build his charitable foundation, a large part of which will be devoted to helping Nigeria.

Both his parents run their own businesses in Columbus with an eye to lifting up those in Abia, a rural outpost in the province of Item. That's where Stephen, a mechanical engineer who owns a consulting firm, and Nnenna, a registered nurse who runs a home health company, grew up. Their youngest son hasn't been there since he was five, but Nnenna was just there helping the sick.

"My dad's brother is a doctor over there, so she took supplies they can't normally get and they treated about 120 people in only a couple of hours," Ndukwe says. "You just take it for granted the stuff that we have. That's the kind of thing that can really have a big impact on a community."

Ndukwe applied to the same NFL business program that accepted Bengals long snapper Brad St. Louis last year. The league also has courses at the Wharton School of Business, Stanford and Northwestern.

Ndukwe opted for the week-long program that begins Feb. 24 in what has been billed as an intense post-graduate set of courses. It fits in quite nicely as he tries to get his foundation off the ground a year after doing the same thing for his career.

"I like to do things right," Ndukwe says of the Nigerian plan. "My family has been the biggest reason for my success in life and it's something that connects me to that. But I'm also looking into some kind of ideas for scholarships in Cincinnati and Columbus."

But, at the moment, he is in a tour bus driving through Tulsa, Okla., knowing the first-year roll is over.

"We're pretty tired of this bus right now," he says. "By the time we get back, it's time to start working out."

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