During the late 90s, behind the Rice-Owens-Stokes triumvirate lurked one Iheanyi Uwaezuoke.
Iheanyi Uwaezuoke, pronounced e-HaN-yee ooh-WAYZ-o-KAY (it was great when Sportscenter anchors had to try to pronounce it off the teleprompter), was the 49ers’ fifth round draft pick in 1996. In some ways, Uwauzuoke was a local boy, playing his college ball at Cal (and he had quite the stellar career at Berkeley), but in other ways–like being born in Nigeria–he really wasn’t that much of a local boy.
To this day, Uwaezuoke might hold rights to the worst debut in Niners history. In his first game, the rookie dropped the first pass that came his way, then dropped the first two punts that came his way, and to top it all off, he injured his shoulder and wound up on the injured list. Suffice to say, it was not a good first day in the office.
In two and a half seasons with the Niners, Uwaezuoke compiled 24 receptions for 323 yards. He was picked up by the Miami Dolphins during the 1998 season, and rounded out his career with Detroit and Carolina in the 1999 and 2000 seasons, respectively, though the majority of his playing time came on special teams. In 2000, he found his way back to the Bay and tried to land a spot on the Oakland Raiders’ roster, but that didn’t quite work out.
In retrospect, Uwaezuoke was a very speedy receiver/returner–probably the best deep threat on those teams–who really was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, considering he was behind a Hall-of-Famer (Jerry Rice), an up-and-coming superstar (Terrell Owens) and a big-name high draft pick (JJ Stokes).
We’re not sure of his post-retirement whereabouts, so if anyone has any info, feel free to share.