Once the final whistle is blown to end your season, the day-to-day grind can change in an instant. Just ask Micah Awe: along with getting prepared to tackle his winter workout routine, the stud linebacker has already started a pretty important offseason job at the University of Illinois. The Petroleum Engineering major from Texas Tech will be spending most of his days working on a project funded by the Department of Energy in the United States.
“Right now I am just getting started so it’s a lot of paperwork and getting my email ready, but I’m working on core analysis and reservoir simulations. That is more of what I specialized in back in college,” Awe explained.
Reservoir simulations sounds like a pretty fancy term. So much so, that we had to ask exactly what it entails.
“It’s basically predicting on a computer how an oil well will act before you actually drill it and it’s all based on oil that has already been drilled,” Awe said.
“It’s a whole bunch of data and it’s kind of like a game. You input the properties, kind of like you would when playing Madden on XBox for instance. You figure out the rock property and input all of the data as much as you can. The more data you have, the better it is and you can simulate how the oil will come out and how fast it will come out. It’s not going to be perfect, but that’s what reservoir simulation is, in a nutshell.”
When we first met Awe back in training camp, we explained to him he was moving to a part of North America where oil drilling, and oil pipelines in particular, were a controversial subject. His offseason work is designed to accomplish what he wants to do in the business: figure out how oil can be used the safest way possible, and not harm in environment.
“Some people are against oil, but it makes the world drive right now. Until we have a new renewable resource we’re going to have to push toward making oil more efficient and friendly for the air,” Awe told bclions.com back in training camp.
“The first goal of this current project is to get oil out of the ground. Illinois is not the biggest Oil exporter in America, but they have very similar reservoirs and rock geology as Texas. It’s very low pressure and it’s called residual oil, which is basically leftover oil. Back in the day, like in the 1940s, you would never think about drilling this oil because it was leftover. The way the economy is now, there is a way to get it. The end goal is to see how it is and how it impacts the environment.”
You can feel how smart and articulate he is when talking about his off-field passion. On the field, Awe proved to be a wrecking ball and viable replacement for Adam Bighill at outside linebacker. After beating out veteran Tony Burnett for the starting job, Awe finished his first CFL campaign with 54 defensive tackles, trailing only Solomon Eliminian, Chandler Fenner and Ronnie Yell for the team lead, despite only starting nine games. Before playing a full-time role on defence, Awe used his explosiveness on special teams to record 16 tackles. Never one to boast about personal stats, Awe gave credit to those around him for all of the help adjusting to Canadian football.
“From my senior season in college up until this point I feel like I have gotten light years better. A lot of it comes from Coach Washington (defensive coordinator) and Coach Tormey (linebackers coach). The other half comes from Solly and how he has changed my mindset as a linebacker,” Awe said.
If you’re going to learn the ins and outs of playing linebacker in the CFL, who better to teach you than Elimimian, the only pure defensive player to ever win the league’s Most Outstanding Player Award? From day one, Awe was all ears and learned some key information to take into his second season in the den.
“One of the main things he tells me is to slow down. That’s probably the biggest thing and what that reminds me of is a young snake with a lot of venom,” he explained.
“If you get bitten, you’re probably going to die because he shoots all of his venom in you. A bigger, more experienced snake would not shoot all of his venom in you, just enough to kill you. I think that’s what he is trying to teach me: just to slow down, know when to attack, when to go fast, and when to go slow. You make a lot more plays that way. I’m trying to improve on that.”
“It is just his desire to be coached, desire to be taught,” Elimimian responded when asked about what impressed him.
“A lot of times when guys come up here they don’t realize it’s a game you have to learn. The football up here is different than in the States. He is probably one of the smartest young guys I have ever been around. Micah also has all of the physical and mental attributes.”
Along with being smart, he has a pretty decent metaphor game. And like any solid professional, Awe will take nothing for granted as he embarks on preparations for 2018. There is one big area of his game he will look to improve on.
“I’m going to do a lot of film study on the pass game. One thing I have always wanted to work on is being a ball hawk. Part of it is practice, but another big part of it is a mindset,” Awe vowed.
He says he witnessed a key example of this from an old friend while watching some CFL playoff action last weekend.
“One of my old (Texas Tech) teammates, Samuel Eguavoen, got an interception for Saskatchewan in their win at Ottawa. I texted him to say he made a clinical play. He told me was watching film the entire week and knew the moment he saw that route he was going to jump it,” Awe added.
“It’s those little things that can change the game. Any offensive coordinator will hate a linebacker that can get the ball at any moment because that is more dangerous than a linebacker tackling. I have to go after the ball more often. That’s something you always have to work on as a defence. Tackles are nice, but turnovers are game changers. I’m trying to be a game changer.”
“You have to be critical of yourself,” Elimimian added.
“The biggest thing you want to do is watch film and see how you can be better individually. The minute you stop trying to get better is when you get worse.”
Over the next few months, Awe will devote his time to football and environmental study. The Champagne, Illinois worked out perfect because Awe’s girlfriend Meghan Robertson works nearby for Exxon Mobil. The couple met at Texas Tech, where Meghan studied Environmental Engineering.
Awe’s career with the Red Raiders has also become better known due to the popularity of the Netflix football documentary Last Chance U. One of the Eastern Mississippi Community College players chronicled in season two is Dakota Allen, who is now back at Texas Tech. You can even catch a glimpse of Awe celebrating in the background in one of Allen’s Texas Tech highlights.
“I have people from all over asking me if I know the guy from Last Chance U and I have to keep on explaining it,” Awe laughed.
“It’s a great show for exposure. I watched Texas Tech’s last game against Baylor and Allen had a forced fumble. I am happy for him. He should be one of the top linebackers coming out for the next NFL Draft.”
Awe, Allen, the Roughriders’ Eguavoen and the Eskimos’ Terrance Bullitt are examples of solid linebackers produced by Texas Tech.
“It’s been really downplayed, because we’re not known for our defence. When you look at the guys who have come out of there, it is one of the top athletic linebacker cores in the last five years, if you ask me,” Awe stated.
You can look at Awe as one of the big pioneers of said Linebacker factory in Lubbock. Texas. Smart, tenacious and environmentally savvy. You get the sense both the BC Lions and Petroleum Engineering worlds are in good hands for the foreseeable future.