L.A. story: The Chargers' homegrown Uchenna Nwosu

Chargers rookie Uchenna Nwosu has the unique distinction of playing high school, college and professional football in the L.A. area. Marc Piscotty/Icon Sportswire

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Uchenna Nwosu grew up a stone's throw from the Los Angeles Chargers' temporary home, the StubHub Center.

Selected in the second round of this year's draft by the Bolts, Nwosu still lives close enough to his family home to return for his favorite home-cooked meal -- jollof rice and chicken.

"It's only once and a while," the linebacker said with a laugh. "I can't keep eating that. I'll put on too much weight if I do that."

Born in the United States, Nwosu is of Nigerian decent. His proper name is Anon Uchenna Nwosu Jr., passed down from his grandfather. The meaning of Uchenna is "God's will."

A product of Narbonne High just outside Carson in Harbor City, Nwosu said his family placed a high priority on education, and he went to nearby USC, where he graduated in four years with a degree in political science.

"It was a great experience," Nwosu said, when asked about growing up in a Nigerian home in L.A. "Many people don't grow up in a cultured home in Los Angeles. Growing up in a Nigerian home was serious, always high achieving with high expectations.

"So that was very good to have, because it always pushed me, taught me to take life seriously and how to prepare for the big battles in life."

Nwosu has the unique distinction of playing high school, college and professional football in Los Angeles, something he does not take for granted.

"The experience is going to be cool," Nwosu said about beginning his NFL career in his hometown. "I played tennis there [at the StubHub Center] when I was younger. I've been in that stadium so many times, sitting in the stands watching soccer games when the Galaxy was playing Chivas, so it's going to be really cool being back in that stadium and playing.

"That nostalgic feeling of being back and playing in your hometown, there's no better feeling."

Nwosu began his high school career as an aspiring basketball player and a Kobe Bryant fan, which is interesting because the retired Laker shares office space with the Chargers at the Hive complex in Costa Mesa.

"Being a kid from L.A., me and cousins always played basketball growing up, so I watched a lot of Kobe," Nwosu said. "He was just the guy to follow in L.A. If you were kid in L.A. during that time, everything was Kobe. He was the face [of L.A.]"

Nwosu didn't start playing football until his sophomore year. A tall, lanky kid, Nwosu tried out for receiver first, but he eventually made his way to the defensive side of the football, where he played safety.

Narbonne High School offensive coordinator Brandon Manumaleuna, who played for the Chargers from 2006 to 2009, was one of the coaches who convinced Nwosu to play football.

Manumaleuna had an intimate understanding of Nwosu's pedigree. Earlier he played at Narbonne with Nwosu's cousin, legendary Oakland Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.

Manumaleuna came out to training camp practice this week to watch his former player up close.

"Once he learned the game, his ability kind of took over from there," Manumaleuna said. "It's a surreal feeling, just to see his growth as a young man and football player. It's just a good feeling to see a kid that played at the school you did make it out, and he's playing for the hometown team.

"That's the part I'm jealous about, like the Chargers couldn't move 10 years earlier? (laughs) ... And that's what I told him, you're one of the select few that's from L.A., you played your college ball in L.A. and now you're playing pro ball in L.A. There's not many guys that can say that, so enjoy this moment."

Nwosu has to earn his way onto the field first, a process that started in earnest this week when the Chargers reported to training camp. Nwosu is one of the young players who will get a chance to earn pass-rush snaps behind two of the best defensive ends in the business: Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa.

Chris McCain, who finished third on the team in sacks last year with five, moved on in free agency. Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley believes Nwosu can help fill the void left by McCain.

The Chargers are hopeful Nwosu can quickly transition to the pro game because he played in a similar defensive scheme at USC. Bradley compared Nwosu's skill set to an effective pass-rusher he coached while leading the defense for the Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders edge rusher Bruce Irvin.

"He was more of a 3-4 outside linebacker [in college], so some things you didn't see him do was drop a lot," Bradley said about Nwosu. "And for our guy, he drops quite a bit, but we saw him in the Senior Bowl playing behind the ball, and you saw him move. So we thought, 'OK, I think if he directs his attention to more of what we're asking, he is the type of athlete that can do it."

Chargers linebackers coach Richard Smith spent plenty of time with Nwosu during the pre-draft process, including film study at the team's facility during the Bolts' local pro day.

"When we brought him in for the pro day, he really impressed us with how smart he was, and he comes from a very good family background," Smith said. "I think it's important to him, so he has all those intangibles that you like, and we were very fortunate to get him in the draft."

Nwosu also has impressed veteran teammates. A captain at USC, Nwosu is sharing the linebacker room once again with linebacker Hayes Pullard, who served as a defensive captain for the Trojans during Nwosu's freshman year.

"When you get out there with us, you have to get up to speed, and that's what he did," Ingram said. "He stepped right in there ready to go and that's what it's all about. He came here from Day 1 and wanted to learn and wanted to get better. He has a bright future in this league.

"I see a playmaker, really. A person who can help this ball club. He's going to go out there and make plays and that's what it's all about."

Nwosu said he also pays close attention to fellow linebacker Jatavis Brown because of his approach to the game.

"He's the type of player that doesn't say much, just comes to work every day and is always prepared," Nwosu said about Brown. "He's doing good on the field and doing great off the field. He's the same guy every day, and that's what I look for -- guys that never change up. Guys that aren't fake and do the same thing every day. He's prime example of that, and I really appreciate that from him. And I try to emulate that example."