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Prince Tega Wanogho could be on Jets' and Giants' radar in NFL Draft

Auburn Tigers offensive lineman Prince Tega Wanogho blocks

Auburn Tigers offensive lineman Prince Tega Wanogho blocks a defender in the Outback Bowl against the Minnesota on Jan. 1 in Tampa, Fla.  Credit: AP/Margaret Bowles

When Prince Tega Wanogho was first introduced to football during the summer before his first and only year at an American high school, he naturally gravitated to the one aspect of the sport to which he could relate.

He became the kicker.

A 6-5, 250-pound kicker with a size-14 foot.

“My soccer skills came into use,” he said with a grin.

Coaches quickly found other ways to put his talents to work. He was taught to play defensive end and tight end. Then, in college, he switched to offensive tackle.

Now, just five years after staring blankly at the pile of football equipment he was expected to put on and requiring the help of the coaching staff at Edgewood Academy in Montgomery, Alabama, to tell him which pads went where, he’s about to enter the NFL.

Four seasons at Auburn — plus some added size that lists him at 6-7 and 305 these days — have put him among the top offensive linemen who will be available in April’s NFL Draft.

With the Giants and Jets both looking for depth at that position, Wanogho could be an enticing second-day selection for either of them . . .  if he makes it that far without being chosen by another team.

Scouts were hoping to have their first chance to see him in action at the NFL Scouting Combine this week. He attended the Senior Bowl in January but was surprised that he could not participate because of swelling from a knee procedure that showed up in his physical examination.

This week it was announced beforehand that he will not take part in any drills at the Combine. He is expected to be able to run in private workouts throughout the spring, putting on display those soccer and basketball skills that originally brought him to the United States from Nigeria.

Of course, teams already know he can play. There is plenty of tape of that. What they have are a lot of questions that they’ll be asking about him.

Here are some of the answers he’s given over and over for the past few years:

Yes, he is an actual prince. His grandfather was the king of the family’s tiny village, Orogun. After he died, the title was passed to his grandfather’s brother, but it toggles between the two sides of the family. Wanogho’s older brother is in line to one day become king.

He came here to play basketball, having caught the eye of Edgewood coach Todd Taylor at a combine-like event for Nigerian hoopsters. He fractured his leg in his only season playing basketball in the United States.

His only exposure to football in Nigeria came from watching movies such as “The Blind Side” and “Remember the Titans.” But he barely noticed the sport they played in those films.

“I didn’t say ‘I could do that,’ ” he said of that introduction. “But they were great movies.” It wasn’t until he showed up at an Edgewood summer practice that he made the connection between the sport and the cinema.

He tries to model his game after Tyron Smith of the Cowboys. “I try to imitate some of the stuff he does,” he said, conceding that he’s not yet close to playing at that level. He does try to cling to some of the skills that translate well from his background in soccer and basketball, including finding parallels between one-on-one defense and pass protection. “You have to squat down and set yourself. They’re pretty much similar.”

And finally, yeah, he loves football.

“My passion for the game,” he said. “That’s something that I get questioned about a lot.”

It’s because he’s been playing the sport for only a few years.

“Everybody is like, ‘You didn’t play football growing up, so can you really love it?’ ” he said. “For me, I feel like it should be the other way around. I just started, so I still have a long way to go and I’m not going to get tired of it. It’s just something I need to prove.”

If he can convince the NFL that he’s all in, there’s bound to be a team that will take a shot on a raw player with his size and athleticism.

“I’m a guy who tries to do my best at everything I do,” he said of his making a quick study of football. “It was pretty tough sometimes, but it was fun . . .  If you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you get it down.

“And that’s what football is.”

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