We have our first local football player commitment for the Class of 2015, and he's staying close to home. Merrimack Valley High senior Ivan Niyomugabo announced on Tuesday that he has accepted a scholarship offer from the University of New Hampshire. The 6-foot-2, 187 lbs. QB/DB has put MV football back on the map. Last year as a junior he threw for 1,455 yards and 16 touchdowns, while also rushing for 722 yards and 11 TDs.
"In early August I received offers from UNH and the next day from Central Connecticut State" Niyomugabo told the NH Notebook. "For both schools I was the first QB they offered. I'm choosing UNH because they made me work very hard for the offer - from camps to multiple workouts and challenges in the classroom, as well as being in touch with them since 8th grade."
New Hampshire competes in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), a highly competitive Division I conference. The Wildcats are annually one of the top FCS teams in the country, and have been known to recruit some of the state's top local high school talent. They're ranked as the nation's #7 team in the latest FCS top 25 poll.
"The recruitment process was very hectic and made me learn how to be patient" explained Niyomugabo. "Right from the end of my junior year I began to send out my tape and filling out questionnaires. It was exciting getting letters from Baylor, SMU and BC. As spring rolled around I had been already in the gym trying to improve my size so that I could make it to a D-I school. I attended camps at Villanova, Maryland, Albany, Central Connecticut and UNH, all of which told me I was one of their top 3 QB recruits. The toughest part I would say were the dead periods between going to camp and the schools getting back to you; it was hard just waiting to see if you were good enough for them and had what it takes. That part was stressful."
Niyomugabo's versatility and athleticism both help to make him an intriguing prospect at the next level, one that could play either offense or defense.
"Both UNH and CCSU offered me a full scholarship as a quarterback" Niyomugabo pointed out. "I worked out with UNH at corner a little bit as well, and Albany I worked out mainly as a wide receiver. However, I knew QB is where I wanted to get offered."
UNH is known for having QBs who put up some big time numbers, going back to Ricky Santos. One of the lineman who protected Santos was Eric Cumba, who is now the head football coach at St. Thomas. Niyomugabo's Merrimack Valley team takes on St. Thomas in a big D-II match up this Saturday. Until recently though, MV was a struggling football but led Niyomugabo their program is winning games again and back on the map.
"I'm truly blessed to be the first MV football player to go D-I" Niyomugabo concluded. "I had the chance to leave MVHS but I also wanted to make a name for myself and be an example to kids in the future. I know I could be a part of my team's success and help them be raised. I encountered many hardships my freshman/sophomore years - a lot of doubt. That only motivated me not only on the field but in the classroom, community and weight room to prove many people wrong and more importantly make my family proud as well as the community. All the traveling I did and opportunities that were put my way could never be done without my parents Emmanuel & Gaudiose Niyomugabo. They always told me to put God first, and they were always there for me, especially during my commitment decision process. They have always respected my decision making and of course the one to stay at MV."
Niyomugabo is a tremendous athlete who also clearly is humble with a good head on his shoulders. It's hard not to root for a kid like that.