Homegrown & hungry

PAUL FRIESEN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:27 AM ET

There's a part of Donnie-O that knew, deep down inside that 287-pound frame of his, this day would someday come.

Something about football grabbed him from an early age, when he'd go to games with his dad, or watch them on TV.

Today, Don Oramasionwu, the Winnipeg-born son of Nigerian immigrants, is a full-fledged Winnipeg Blue Bomber, after surviving the team's final cuts.

And we're pretty sure that of the 50 or so players told to stick around, nobody was happier than the 23-year-old defensive lineman out of the University of Manitoba.

Education No. 1

"It's a dream come true," Oramasionwu (pronounce it O-ra-ma-see-ON) was saying yesterday. "Every kid has dreams. I've been thinking that way since I was a kid, all through high school, even through university.

"It's finally here. I knew it was going to come."

That's what a young Donnie-O actually told his dad when they were watching games.

You'll understand if an African immigrant who came to Canada with maybe $75 in his pocket in the 1970s wasn't particularly impressed.

You see, in the Oramasionwu household, education is No. 1. Fun and games, a distant second.

So whenever Donnie-O slacked off in school, mom and dad would crack the whip.

It obviously worked, because when Oramasionwu got a chance to attend Texas Southern University, a Division 1-AA school, he turned it down because he could get a better education at the U of M.

"I still kind of wonder now if it was a good decision," he said. "But I got my degree and I'm playing pro football now. Who knows what would have happened down there? There's no guarantee I would have been playing in the NFL, and my degree wouldn't mean anything."

Drafted by the Bombers a year ago, he actually could have joined their '08 practice roster after originally being released.

Again, school came first, as Oramasionwu had a commerce degree to complete. With honours.

The folks will understand, though, if their son's helmet-and-pads "graduation" is even more thrilling than the cap-and-gown variety.

"Now that I've graduated from school, they know all I'm thinking about is football," Oramasionwu said. "And that's what makes me happy."

Even happier when he found out his former Bisons teammate, defensive back Brady Browne, made the team, too.

This bodes well for the Bombers: the last time these two played together, they won a national championship.

"To have him here just brings up good memories," Browne said. "Now we can take this next step together."

Originally from B.C., Browne calls Winnipeg home, now.

But he took a rather circuitous route to the Bombers: drafted by the B.C. Lions, he spent last season on their practice roster, then signed with Saskatchewan before being traded to Winnipeg on April Fool's day.

"It's a relief, to finally have this happen," the 26-year-old said. "It's been a long time coming. I've always wanted to play for the Bombers, since I came to Manitoba. I really wanted to get drafted by them, and when it didn't happen it was a letdown. Now I'm here."

But not before a few anxious moments at the team hotel yesterday morning.

"I woke up pretty early, and walked down to the restaurant area and it was like a ghost town," Browne said. "It was eerily quiet. You might bump into a guy here and there, and you're like, 'Have you heard anything?' No one knew until around 2 o'clock. It's pretty surreal."

After last season, Browne has a burning desire to show people he can, indeed, play this game.

Oramasionwu always believed he would.

Two former champions, reunited in the same training camp, the same hotel room. Roommates on the road, and now teammates in the pros.

"We're both excited right now," Donnie-O said.

You could tell.


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