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Man of Steel: Captain Wade Keliikipi provides the courageous in the middle of the Duck d-line

Wade Keliikipi is a lunch-pail player too, only his dream lunch would include some fresh Ahi tuna, some delicious fried spam, and some wafer cookies and peanut butter mochi.

Come game time the 6-3 295-lb. senior defensive tackle is all business, a strong, physical force at nose tackle for the Oregon defense.

Daily Plant-It: On the road in Husky Stadium in 2011, Wade Keliikipi notches a sack of Washington’s Keith Price (zimbio.com photo).

Before a leg injury in the USC game last fall, Keliikipi had appeared in 36 straight games as a Duck, starting the last 19 in a row. The hard-working veteran, chosen as a team captain this year, specializes in taking on the offense’s big blockers in the interior line and tieing them up to stuff the run.

Before the Fiesta Bowl last year, linebacker Kiko Alonso told Aaron Fentress of the Oregonian, “Wade’s a great player. He’s going to clog some stuff up for us. Makes life better for me and Michael Clay and the other backers.”

Despite missing three games, Wade K broke loose for 20 tackles last season (10 unassisted, 10 assisted), including four tackles for loss for 15 yards and two sacks for 11 yards. Keliikipi tied for the team lead with a career-high six tackles against Arizona State. He added four stops against USC, and victimized the Cougars for two sacks in a 51-26 road victory on September 29th.

From the Waianae High Seariders in Oahu, Hawaii, the fifth-year senior was Superprep Magazine’s top-rated defensive tackle in the state as a prep, number 59 overall in the West. Scout.com rated him a 2-star prospect. Asked by Brian Ojima of hawaiinews.com why he chose Oregon, Keliikipi said, “When I went up there on my trip I just felt comfortable being there, I guess it was something in my heart that was telling me it was the right place for me” 

The affable islander has gotten better every year. Healthy now, feeling strong and agile, he looks to show leadership as the Ducks pursue the reclaiming of the PAC-12 crown and a bid for the national championship. 

If he makes a leap as a senior there could be another reward for Wade. Nfldraftblitz.com rates him 14th among senior tackles. With a 5.06 40 and a 400+ bench press, Oregon’s inside warrior could move up the draft boards if he shows greater disruption and improved technique.

In an interview with Duck Sports Authority’s A.J. Jacobson, Keliikipi talked about the influence of new defensive line coach Ron Aiken. “He brings a lot to the program,” the nose tackle said. “He knows what he’s doing because he comes from the NFL. We respect him a lot.”

In fall camp, the group has to take this relationship beyond respect. To be successful in the trench warfare of defensive line play, they need pride, cohesion, love and trust. Their relationship with Aiken has to grow to one of fierce loyalty rather than respect for his technical expertise. That comes with time.

In the video below, watch Keliikipi’s active and persistent work in the middle of the defensive line. He wears #92, often lined up over center. The graphic block in the clip highlights Dion Jordan #96, but it was Keliikipi who produced the two quarterback stuffs in this game. Note how Keliikipi keeps working, pursuing, fighting off blockers and playing to the whistle.

He’s a strong leader who earns his lunch.

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