ATLANTA - A disappointing season for North Clayton has left a bitter taste in the mouth of Onuma Dieke and he's looking to learn from the mistakes of 2018.
North Clayton struggled to make the postseason in 2018 and went a disappointing 1-9 on the season. For a program like the Eagles, it was not what they expected to have. Dieke says that the team enters with a mindset to win.
"My class learned from our previous seniors that if you really want to win as badly as we say we want to win, we have to be able to put in the work for it," Dieke said. "Last year of high school football, last year putting on that North Clayton blue and this year's seniors have made up our mind that we are not accepting nothing less than a win. We are tired of that loser mentality and there is no room for none of that this year. We are just not going to accept it out of no one this year."
With last year hanging over the heads of the entire program. It's apparent that North Clayton doesn't want to repeat their previous mistakes and they'll stop at nothing to avoid it. From the players' eyes, he acknowledges that 2018 was not beautiful but he also points out the issue.
During his junior campaign, he believed that seniors had to lead the team but when it came down to it, there wasn't a leader to be found.
"I came to realize that leadership can come from anybody and any grade," Dieke said. "Whoever wants to step up and be different is a true leader. We were lacking that in our previous year. As a returning player, I saw what we went through and I saw us at our lowest moments but this year, I am learning and forming into the leader this team needs to win games."
A new mentality across all North Clayton High was needed and now it can be felt. When the final whistle blew for the game against Salem High last year, the Eagles were not ones to not be on the field. The very next day, the returning players were on the field looking to work and improve because they didn't want to experience a 1-9 season again.
Throughout the offseason, North Clayton has more to prove that what they exhibited in 2018 and the senior class is the head of the beast.
Dieke has also worked hard on improving himself as a leader. That very same leadership is what he wants to be counted on when things get rough.
"Everything is not always going to go our way every Friday night and when everyone is down and defeated, the team needs that guy to step up and make a play and bring energy and life back into the team during moments like that," Dieke said. "My head coach always preaches to me that he believes I can be the leader this team needs and after being in this program for two years and heading into my third year I have realized that leadership is big and when a team doesn’t have a leader, the team is so quick to fall apart when things get rough."
It's also known that it's easier for those who wish nothing but bad luck on a program to begin appearing. The nay-sayers are there but abilities to avoid entertaining it are a different beast. Dieke admits he listens to it but always knows that in his mind, he will continue to focus because he has a job to complete.
"I am not about to let words from someone that is not out there with me and my team every day in the sun. Every day in the weight room and every day in the classroom learning the plays and watching the film - affect my job and my performance," Dieke said. "I love to talk, so if you have something to say then OK that’s fine because when I prove you wrong I love to see the look on your face when what you said doesn’t match up to what you saw.
Personal goals are there for Dieke this year, such as winning, compiling 1,000 yards, first team wide receiver honors and even be an All-American but that won't trump the teams' goals. It's even college recruitment time for him and he says that it's been going well this year.
With offers from Grambling State and the University of South Alabama, patience in the process is a must.
"I came to realize everyone’s process is different and I cannot stress about offers or any of it because at the end of the day," Dieke said. "If I do what I have to do and handle business to help my team win games and put up numbers then the offers will come."
Confidence in what Dieke can do in his final year is high, from the coaching staff to the players, he's gained and earned his respect. That respect brought him more confidence in his game.
"It’s a family over here and I am blessed to say that the team and coaching staff have full confidence in me," Dieke said. "I will be able to lead this team to greatness this year. That's why I gained the name 'begreatod' because the team saw how I worked every day and carried myself as a student-athlete."