Longhorn fans got to know the journey of how Reggie
Wilson came from being the son of Liberian war refugees to the state’s top
prospect in the 2010 class. Now, Wilson’s family tree is branching out and his
cousin – Richland linebacker Jeremiah Tshimanga – could be on his way to making
a similar journey. A native of The Congo, Tshimanga has an interesting story of
his own and like his cousin he looks like he’s on the verge of becoming a fine
There are athletes who come from tough situations, but
Tshimanga’s path has been rougher than that of just about all of his peers.
Born in The Congo, his father left the family when he was
about seven and at age 12, his mother could no longer take care of Tshimanga
and his three siblings and he’s been living with friends and getting by however
he can ever since.
The hard times he’s experienced have made him hungry to
succeed in life, and that includes football. Tshimanga said he would love to
earn a scholarship to go to college in order to provide for his family and that
chance might not be too far off from coming to fruition.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound outside linebacker prospect
enjoyed a solid sophomore season at Richland as the Rebels advanced to the
Class 5A playoffs, but it’s his impressive physique and upside as an edge
rusher have piqued the interest of several college coaching staffs. Oklahoma
State, who currently has a commitment from fellow Richland Rebel Nico Ornelas,
and Texas A&M, the school responsible for Tshimanga’s first verbal offer,
have both shown serious interest.
Texas has also shown interest as Tshimanga noted that
Texas assistant coach Bruce Chambers stopped by the school in the spring to
check on him. It also helps the Longhorns that Wilson and Tshimanga talk quite
a bit and the former Haltom standout has talked to his cousin about life on the
“I talked to (Wilson) a couple of weeks ago and he wants
me to go down there to Texas with him to visit,” Tshimanga said. “I’m looking
forward to getting down there and meeting the defensive coordinator. We’re
trying to play together one day and get after it – I just have to get bigger
Getting bigger is something that shouldn’t be a problem
for Tshimanga. His older brother who recently graduated high school is 6-foot-7
and Tshimanga feels like at 6-foot-3 he’s not done growing himself. He also
noted that his brother, had he been given the opportunity, could have been a
“He didn’t spring up until his junior year,” Tshimanga
said. “We have bad family problems, so he didn’t get to play football. He could
have been better than Reggie.”
Better than an ESPNU 150 member who finished his career
as the No. 1-ranked prospect in the Inside Texas 2010 Top 100 might be a
stretch, but Tshimanga said he saw some striking similarities between his
brother and his talented cousin.
“They’re a lot alike,” Tshimanga said. “They’re big, they’re
athletic and they’re strong.”
Tshimanga, thankfully, will get the chance to show how
good he can be on the football field before his career is over, and he could
very well wind up at Texas. While it remains to be seen exactly where things go
with Tshimanga and the Longhorns, Texas is a school that will factor into his
decision if the mutual interest is there.
“I would love to go there,” Tshimanga said of Texas. “I’m
looking forward to getting down there and meeting the family, because they’re
like family down there. I’d really like to get down there and visit one day.”
He will play linebacker again as a junior for the Rebels,
but with his body expected to grow and continue to fill out there’s a good
chance Tshimanga could wind up spinning down and playing on the defensive line
at some point in his career. Perhaps Wilson’s best attribute as a prospect was
his motor and his relentlessness to get to the quarterback and Tshimanga said
that if he does wind up playing with his hand on the ground at some point,
expect him to have that same mentality.
“I feel like I can play d-line, too,” Tshimanga said. “That’s
what I love to do – hit the quarterback.”
The Rebels were bounced in the first round of the
playoffs last year by Arlington Bowie, but a strength for the Rebels will be
defense this fall. With Tshimanga and Ornelas back in the fold the Rebels
figure to be strong at the linebacker position, and Tshimanga said recent
experiences like the 7-on-7 State Tournament will only help.
Advancing to the semifinals of the Division I consolation
bracket, the Rebels got really good pass coverage throughout the tournament
from their defense, including a solid effort from Tshimanga.
“We feel like with me and Nico we can stop the run,”
Tshimanga said. “We feel confident when it comes to the run game, so when we’re
out here we can really focus on coverage and playing off of the ball.”
Many folks haven’t seen Tshimanga play, but he said those
who head out to see him this fall will get a good show.
“I play focused and I get after it,” Tshimanga said. “I
love getting stops and I get hyped when I get stops. I try and learn from my
mistakes and do whatever I can to get better.”