Joel Iyiegbuniwe hopes to become a pediatrician someday, but medical school will have to wait while the Western Kentucky inside linebacker pursues another dream.
Iyiegbuniwe was selected by the Bears with the 115th pick in the fourth round of the NFL Draft Saturday and is ecstatic about becoming a pro football player.
"In college my major was biology—pre-med discipline—but obviously now I'm putting that on hold," Iyiegbuniwe said. "I haven't studied for the MCAT or started looking at med schools. I'm putting that on hold and just try to play as long as I can and use the gift that God gave me right now and then later down the future if that's still the plan, then go back and try to do that."
Iyiegbuniwe was a two-year starter at Western Kentucky. Last season the 6-1, 229-pounder was named first-team All-Conference USA after leading the Hilltoppers with 117 tackles and 11.5 tackles-for-loss while also recording two sacks and three forced fumbles.
With the 115th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select Western Kentucky University LB Joel Iyiegbuniwe.
In 2016, Iyiegbuniwe started 14 games and made 64 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 10 tackles-for-loss. He started his career at Western Kentucky in 2014, playing in three games before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
The Bears intend to keep Iyiegbuniwe at inside linebacker and see him as a highly intelligent player who possesses excellent traits as well as a physical, downhill style.
“He’s just so athletic,” said general manager Ryan Pace. “He’s so fast. There are numerous plays where [I’ve said], ‘Hey Matt [Nagy], you’ve got to come in here and see this play, just how physical he is. He throws his body around. There are a lot of plays in the backfield. He’s really a fun guy to watch because of all those reasons. We couldn’t be more excited to have him.”
Iyiegbuniwe, whose name is pronounced "JO-el Ee-Yay-Boo-Nee-Way" and goes by the nickname "Iggy," was surprised that he was drafted by the Bears.
"I didn't have any contact with them at all," Iyiegbuniwe said. "I didn't have any visits with them. I didn't fly out to them. They didn't work me out or anything. So pretty much today was the first time I had any kind of contact. It wasn't something I was expecting or anything. But I'm excited, man. I was born in Chicago, so it's pretty awesome."
Iyiegbuniwe, who is of Nigerian descent, lived in Chicago and Bolingbrook for the first eight years of his life before moving to Kentucky.
Iyiegbuniwe played both inside and outside linebacker at Western Kentucky and also has extensive experience on special teams, a role he likely will be asked to fill with the Bears.
"You're going to get a player who puts 110 percent in to whatever it is that's asked of him.," Iyiegbuniwe said. "You're going to get a guy who's going to push his teammates, a guy who loves the game and is excited to be a part of the organization.
"I'm absolutely going to give my all into it. You're getting a linebacker who has speed, who has good change of direction, who can cover as well and who can play in space. If you need me to rush the passer, be an outside linebacker, I can do that as well. You're getting a player who could do whatever is asked of him."