Iheanyi Uwaezuoke
No. 89, 80     
Wide receiver / Punt returner
Personal information
Date of birth: (1973-07-24)July 24, 1973
Place of birth: Lagos, Nigeria
Career information
College: California
NFL Draft: 1996 / Round: 5 / Pick: 160
No regular season or postseason appearances
Career history
* San Francisco 49ers ( 1996 1998)
Career highlights and awards
  • N/A
Receptions     29
Receiving yards     374
Touchdowns     1
Punt returns     62
Punt return yards     696
Touchdowns     1
Stats at

Iheanyi Uwaezuoke (/ˈhɑːnji ˈwzk/ ee-HAHN-yee-_-oo-WAY-zoh;[1] born July 24, 1973) is a Nigerian former American football wide receiver and punt returner for the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, and Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted in the fifth round of the 1996 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. He played college football for the California Golden Bears.

Early yearsEdit

Uwaezuoke was born in Lagos, Nigeria. His father, a Nigerian Igbo, came to America in 1978 to pursue his education, and the rest of his family followed in 1980. Uwaezuoke attended Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, California.[2] He played wide receiver and defensive back, and was selected to the Los Angeles Times All-Valley team and the All-Southern Section Division VII team. In addition to football, he also played basketball and competed in track and field, setting a school record of 45 feet 2 inches (13.77 m) in the triple jump as well as competing in the 100 meters, 400 meter relay, and shot put.[2] He was recruited by UCLA, Duke, Penn, and California, but ultimately received no athletic scholarship offers.[3]

College careerEdit

Uwaezuoke chose to attend the University of California, Berkeley, as a walk-on,[2] and earned a scholarship after his first semester.[4] Uwaezuoke became known as a big-play wide receiver for the Golden Bears. He caught 25 passes in his sophomore year, including a touchdown in Cal's 1993 Alamo Bowl win over Iowa.[5] Playing in 10 games in 1994, he had 56 catches for 716 yards and 5 touchdowns.[6] In 1995, he missed the front and back ends of his senior year due to thumb[7] and knee injuries.[8] and had 30 receptions for 506 yards and three touchdowns in 6 complete games. He finished his career with 114 catches for 1,703 yards[9] and tied a school record (later surpassed) for total receptions in a game (13).[10]

Professional careerEdit

Uwaezuoke was selected by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round (160th overall) of the 1996 NFL Draft. Although he had not played much on special teams in high school or college, he focused on special team play as a way to make an impact on the team.[11] In 1997, he was the 49ers' regular punt returner until he muffed a catch in the next to last game and the coaches replaced him with Rod Woodson; Uwaezuoke was cut by the 49ers during the subsequent season and claimed by the Dolphins.[12] In his career he played in 60 NFL games, with 2 starts at wide receiver and 32 contests where he appeared as a featured punt returner. Uwaezuoke currently ranks 27th on the NFL career list for average yards per punt return (11.2).[13]


  1. Klein, Patrick (November 4, 1994). "Uwaezuoke is no average Joe". Arizona Daily Wildcat.,%201994/10_1_m.html. Retrieved July 16, 2015. "It took UA Sports Information Director Tom Duddleston to pronounce the name for Tomey. For the record, Iheanyi Uwaezuoke is pronounced Eee-HAH-nyee OO-WAY-zoh-kay . . . ."
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Riley, Jeff (July 25, 1991). "Uwaezuoke to Walk On With Purpose : Prep football: Nigerian receiver-defensive back from Harvard High vows to earn a scholarship at Cal.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 24, 2012.
  3. Haddad, Dana (October 6, 1994). "Cal's Uwaezuoke a Deep Thinker". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 20, 2013.
  4. "Harvard Alumnus earns football grant from Cal", Los Angeles Daily News, May 28, 1992 (pay site).
  5. Dana Haddad, "Cal's Uwaezuoke Still Feels a Hunger", Los Angeles Times, January 6, 1994.
  6. Dana Haddad, "Pro Career Next Route for Cal's Uwaezuoke?", Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1995.
  7. Samuel Chi, "Uwaezuoke thumbs nose at adversity", San Francisco Examiner, September 29, 1995.
  8. "Receiver Uwaezuoke Goes Out With Style, Sadness", San Jose Mercury News, November 5, 1995 (pay site).
  9. Samuel Chi, "Bears lose WR Uwaezuoke, LB Johnson for rest of season", San Francisco Examiner, November 5, 1995.
  10. "Bears Need Rally to Edge Beavers", Associated Press in Los Angeles Times, November 1, 1998.
  11. David Wharton, "Something Special: Iheanyi Uwaezuoke of Harvard-Westlake High Has Seen Limited Action as a Receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, but He's Finding His Niche on the Club With His Strong Play on Special Teams." Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1997.
  12. Cesar Brioso, "An Opportunity To Return: Cut By 49ers, Uwaezuoke Aims For Role With Dolphins", Sun-Sentinel, November 21, 1998.
  13. Iheanyi Uwaezuoke Script error at


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