TAMPA — Like any good big brother, Dare Ogunbowale has always looked out for his little sister. Now he looks up to her as well.
At 22, Arike is three years younger than the Bucs running back. But she’s the favorite to win the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year award as the point guard for the Dallas Wings.
Meanwhile, Dare, a former walk-on at Wisconsin, is trying to secure a job as the Bucs’ third down back and kick returner as the undrafted free agent enters his third NFL season.
But their stardom switched sidelines as soon as the 5-foot-8 Arike hit the last-second, game-winning shot to help Notre Dame beat Connecticut in overtime of the national semifinal in 2018, only to do it again 48 hours later in the final against Mississippi State.
“I talk to him every single day and I go to him with a lot,’’ Arike said. “He’s my big brother and one of my best friends. He gives me advice with a lot of different things that are happening, and even with the WNBA, he’ll text me after every game and he watches film. He’s one of my biggest supporters and I don’t know where I would be without him, honestly.’’
The Ogunbowale (oh-goon-boh-WAH-lay) family is full of great athletes an intense competitors. Their mother, Yolanda, was a scholarship softball player at DePaul and coached Arike’s youth basketball teams while teaching for 34 years. Their father, Gregory, who is from Nigeria, was a high school principal who now oversees some of them in a Milwaukee school district.
While Arike’s career is approaching superstardom, by comparison Dare still waits for his big shot. He walked on as a defensive back at Wisconsin but wound up carrying the football, rushing for 1,518 yards and 13 touchdowns.
He’s been cut by the Bucs before, played two games as a rookie with the Redskins and two more last season with Tampa Bay after being promoted from the practice squad. Although he has seven kickoff returns, he’s waiting for his first NFL rushing attempt.
“Every practice has been good,’’ said Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who refers to Dare as No. 44. “He’s really impressing us. (He’s) pressing to be the nickel back and every down back if he’s needed to be.’’
Dare has put on some weight. At 5-11, he’s gone from 207 pounds to 220 in the off-season by eating more, including his snack of peanut butter sandwiches before bedtime. He believes it will help him be a more effective inside runner.
The Bucs could keep as many as four running backs. Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones are locks. Veteran Andre Ellington and Ogunbowale are battling to play on third down. Rookie Bruce Anderson may head to the practice squad.
“I mean, all his hard work is finally paying off,’’ Arike said. “He’s always been considered an underdog. He was a walk-on in college and worked his way up. Undrafted. He’s always been good and he just needed a change. A new coaching staff seeing him for the first time in a good thing.’’
Dare was in Columbus, Ohio, two years ago when Arike hit the big shots to beat UConn and Mississippi State. By the time the basketball came through the net, life had changed forever. Arike started receiving tweets from Kobe Bryant and others. She made an appearance on the Ellen Degeneres Show.
As fate would have it, Notre Dame made it back to the championship game in April against Baylor this season, a tournament played at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Dare was there along with older brother Mario, his parents and two aunts.
"He could be a basketball coach,'' Arike said. "If he wasn’t playing football, he could do it. It’s just his sports I.Q. in general.''
Trailing in the championship game to Baylor by two points, Arike was fouled in the waning seconds with a chance to send the game into overtime. Then the unthinkable happened. She missed one of the two free throws. The confetti fell, Baylor won and Arike was crushed.
As always, Dare was there to pick up the pieces of that painful moment played on a national stage.
“That time was tough,’’ Arike said. “One of the best moments of my life in the last game and followed by one of the worst moments of my life. But my career and legacy won’t be defined from it. It’s one shot out of whatever.’’
As a rookie for the Wings, Arike is averaging 15 points and 2.5 assists while playing nearly 30 minutes per game. Dare scrutinizes every performance.
“It’s still kind of surreal. I’m real proud of her,'' Dare said. "Just kind of pushing, trying to make sure my parents don’t forget about me.
“I always tell her I’m chasing her now. She’s setting that standard of what I want to do and the success I want to have and she’s doing all of that. She’s killing it on and off the court and I let her know she’s motivating me.’’