Temple's Martin-Oguike gets extra year of eligibility

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Temple defensive lineman Praise Martin-Oguike. (Mark L. Baer/USA Today Sports file photo)

Praise Martin-Oguike, who was among Temple's top defensive players last season, will play an extra year on North Broad Street.

The NCAA granted another year of eligibility for the Owls defensive lineman, who missed two seasons while dealing with a well-documented legal situation before returning for the 2014 campaign.

The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Martin-Oguike was born in Nigeria and played at Woodbridge (N.J.) High. He will be classified as a redshirt junior and will have two more years of eligibility remaining.

"I am excited about it," Martin-Oguike said. "To have it is a relief and I don't have to rush everything."

Martin-Oguike earned second-team all-American Athletic Conference honors last season after recording 71/2 sacks, five forced fumbles and two blocked field goals while learning a new position. As a freshman in 2011, he was a linebacker.

In May 2012, after his freshman season, Martin-Oguike was arrested on charges of forcible rape, false imprisonment and related offenses stemming from a dorm room incident. Martin-Oguike was expelled from Temple.

In October 2013, on the day the case was scheduled to go to trial, the prosecution withdrew it because of a lack of evidence.

Martin-Oguike's attorney, James Funt, said the defense has maintained that the player's relationship with the accuser was consensual.

On Jan. 20, 2014, the Temple board voted for full exoneration and Martin-Oguike was back on the team. The NCAA restored his scholarship and now has granted him an extra year of eligibility. Normally, a student-athlete has to complete his or her four years of eligibility in five years, but with the waiver, Martin-Oguike will have six.

"I am happy for him and that his faith, his character has been rewarded with the opportunity to play another year and I look forward to seeing him graduate," Temple coach Matt Rhule said.

Martin-Oguike, a criminal justice major, had to apply for two waivers to the NCAA, first to earn his scholarship back and then for the extra year of eligibility. The applications were filed by Temple but initiated by Martin-Oguike.

"I am happy with the process and them being able to recognize the right thing to do," Martin-Oguike said.

Despite being undersized for a defensive lineman, Martin-Oguike has great quickness. Since he is still relatively new to the position, the extra year not only will help Temple but Martin-Oguike, who has NFL ambitions. Rhule says that is a realistic goal.

"He will be an NFL player and he will have to find the right system," Rhule said. "He is undersized but a lot of teams want guys with his skill set."

Temple, coming off a 6-6 season, began spring practice on March 23. The Cherry and White game will be played on April 25.


mnarducci@phillynews.com

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