WEST CHESTER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — There is no debate that Lakota West senior offensive tackle Tegra Tshabola is one of the nation's top high school football players in the 2022 class.
The 6-foot-6, 330-pound offensive lineman is verbally committed to The Ohio State University.
This past May, he committed to the prestigious All-American Bowl.
What may not be as commonly known is the 17-year-old with size 17 shoes speaks fluent French.
His family moved to West Chester Township more than a dozen years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where French is spoken. Tshabola had to learn English because French was his first language and is still spoken in his family.
"People usually don't know, but then when they see me speak with my parents sometimes they look at me funny," Tshabola said.
Football has also been a common language in the Tshabola family for a number of years.
Tshabola has two elder brothers, Dan, a 2018 Lakota West graduate and former defensive lineman, and Michael, a 2016 graduate and former linebacker, who played for the Firebirds.
Tegra used to stand next to the stadium bleachers as a young football player watching the Lakota West games while listening to the coaching staff instruct the team. He did everything he could to learn about the game from his brothers.
"They both played really hard," Tshabola said. "They taught me to play every play like it's your last, so when I'm out here playing football I finish out every play."
Tshabola has had quite the journey since his freshman season, when he played on the defensive line, to his junior season, when he was named a Division I first-team all-state offensive lineman.
"He was a basketball kid, a good basketball player," said Lakota West coach Tom Bolden, who arrived at Lakota West for the 2019 season.
"He always had that athleticism, but just everything was just so raw and not refined. Now he really works at his craft and his pass pro and his run blocking and all that. He's really, really stepped up and he's become a complete football player from the standpoint that it's not just him bullying people around. He's using the skill set that he has now."
Soft-spoken and unassuming off the field, Tshabola is imposing between the lines. He's seen defensive linemen do anything possible to try to avoid his blocking. Tshabola said he is patient in waiting to put his hands on a defender in a game and perfecting his craft in practice.
"I'm an offensive lineman, so I like hitting. So you get to come out here, you get to grind it out,"
"You get to work with your friends that you see every day. Come out here and all work to achieve the same goal."
Tshabola embraced his role as a captain and has made it a point to help younger players this season.
"This program I've learned that when you really want something, you got to really put in the work if you want to get somewhere far in life," Tshabola said. "I've definitely bought into that. I've been working hard trying to get up to Ohio State soon, in January."
Tshabola will graduate from Lakota West in December and join Ohio State as an early enrollee in January.
"He's got the tools," Lakota West offensive line coach Jeff Wadl said. "He's obviously got the size. But he's got the strength and he works hard in the weight room, so he's got a good work ethic there. I think what I've really seen him do this year is be more cognizant of his technique and things he needs to do, especially at the next level."
Bolden said Tshabola's best football days are ahead of him.
"It will be really cool to see in a couple of years from now with a couple college seasons under his belt what he does," Bolden said. "Because, like I said, I think he's gotten better each year and I think the sky is the limit with him."
Tshabola, who has worked with Bengals great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Anthony Muñoz, would like to play in the NFL. He'd also like to help others along the way.
"My biggest goal is to train other athletes, train other kids," Tshabola said. "My dream is to have a training facility, like a big national training facility, for people to come to."