MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia has had a player selected in every NFL draft since 2008, including two this weekend. Dozie Ezemma wasn’t among them, but he has his own streak going.
He’s still a virgin.
And he plans on staying that way until his wedding day.
Ezemma tweeted out the news last week as he packed up his college apartment. The linebacker was proud to be leaving West Virginia with a degree in chemistry, three seasons’ worth of football memories and an even rarer quality, his chastity.
To everyone who said I couldn’t stay a virgin … “You can’t tell me nothing.” I am 23 and waiting on the Queen of Queens, my wife. #Jesus — Tweet from @Dizie4J
The tweet was good-natured razzing for some of his former high school classmates in Ramapo, N.Y., doubters who wondered how any teenage boy could beat back the surge of hormones and abide by such a pledge—much less a gregarious, 6-foot-2 football player heading off to taste college independence.
Ezemma certainly encountered temptations.
“My first year in college, man, it was difficult,” he said. “I remembered all those people back home telling me ‘You’re never going to make it through college as a virgin.’ And when I got there and laid eyes on all the girls, I understood exactly what they were talking about!”
Even at a relatively small Division II campus like New Haven, where Ezemma played his first two seasons, the girls provided what many athletes regarded as a target-rich environment. “Being a football player, there’s opportunities everywhere,” he said. “A lot of people almost throw themselves at you.”
Those opportunities multiplied exponentially once Ezemma transferred to WVU, where Mountaineers players—like most athletes at high-profile programs—are praised, placated and pursued. Yet when it came to sex, this rush end was in no rush.
“Sometimes instead of going out, I would just go home and start reading my bible, just hanging by myself,” he said. “Because you can get yourself into situations where you don’t know what will happen.”
Growing up in the Catholic church gave Ezemma a faith foundation and was among the reasons he initially decided as a sixth-grader to save himself for marriage. Yet he admitted that being involved in church “didn’t necessarily mean I was living a Christian life.” He recalled periods of “partying every weekend” throughout high school, one more reason friends discounted his ability to put off sex.
Those friends might have been right, too, if not for Ezemma witnessing the transformation of another partying classmate his senior year.
“Here was a guy suddenly talking about Christ, when everybody knew all his dirt, knew everything he had done in the past,” Ezemma said. “But that stuff didn’t matter anymore. We had these church meetings at school and he talked to me a lot. I just said to myself, ‘I need whatever he’s got.’”
That’s when Ezemma got saved and became recommitted to saving himself.
It required a level of discipline, dedication and self-deprivation that many teammates and peers in Morgantown couldn’t comprehend. (No hooking up? Isn’t that a prereq at one of the nation’s top party schools?) Especially at a time when even the most religious young people are susceptible to taking a sabbatical from their spiritual selves, the abstinence pledge stood out.
“Most people, when they find out I’m a virgin, they’re shocked,” said Ezemma, who now practices as a nondemoninational Christian. “Male or female, it’s the same reaction. They laugh and call me a liar for a little bit, but then they see that my reaction is genuine, and they’re like ‘Oh, you’re serious?’” (How rare are college-aged virgins? A 2012 study from the Centers for Disease Control showed 14 percent of males between 20-24 had never had sex.)
While seeing superstar Christian athletes draw backlash for clashing with societal tolerances—”I always had Tebow’s back in every conversation,” Ezemma cracked—he said he encountered “nothing but respect” at WVU. In fact, among the most fortifying moments were when teammates professed to him privately, “I wish I had done it, too.”
Last fall, just when Ezemma was primed to become a key part of the Mountaineers’ outside linebacker rotation, he suffered a gruesome broken ankle in the Week 1 against William & Mary. His helmet off and his final college season finished, the fifth-year senior sat backward on a cart bound for the training room when the gamut of emotional coping began.
“I was mad at first and throughout the whole day I was feeling everything,” he said. “But then I just pulled myself together and decided that this was part of my walk. I said I’ve got Jesus with me and others are going to look to see the way I handle this. So I used the injury as a tool.”
Nearly eight months later, with an eye toward reaching an NFL rookie camp, Ezemma contended last week that he was healthy and hungry. Meetings with several teams before the draft left him optimistic of landing an opportunity somewhere as an undrafted free agent.
The day before graduation, a wide-smiling Ezemma tweeted a photo of himself leaving an empty apartment, a roll of paper towels and a container of protein powder under his arm. His getaway-day message:
“It was great West Virginia … Gotta #MoveOut for the next plans for the Lord #WVU #TeamJesus … I had a great time!!”
And you believe he did have a great time, even without the … well, you know.