Daniel Akinkunmi, a British-Nigerian offensive lineman, had intended to make many visits to his top college selections before making a decision. Still, no other excursions were required once he stepped foot at the Oklahoma Sooners.
Akinkunmi, a London-born offensive lineman who can play all five positions, informed ESPN that his next options were Clemson and Baylor. He had received over 35 college offers. After his visit to the Sooners in September, he was certain that they were the best fit for him, though.
He told ESPN: “I genuinely felt like Oklahoma was the place for me when I went there. The fans are incredible. Fans would approach me and say, “Oh my god, you’re the guy from the UK.” You work on the offensive line. Have a wonderful time while you’re here.
The coaching staff is next. Coach [Bill] Bedenbaugh is a fantastic offensive line coach. He has produced some of the top players in the league, including Anton Harrison, an offensive tackle selected in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. Having him mentor and help me grow as a player is fantastic.
“I intend to put forth a lot of effort. I will do everything I can to improve as a player, so it’s terrific to have a great coach who has fostered high potential.
It was wonderful to see how much Coach [Brent] Venables has improved the program quickly because they are currently 6-0 while watching that Arkansas State game. Who’s to say they couldn’t go 12-0 or 13-0 and even take home the Natty?
Initially, Akinkunmi played basketball, but he soon realized that his physique was better suited to another sport. He was born in England, but his family is Nigerian on both sides, and his nation is better known for rugby league and rugby union than American football.
Despite trying rugby for a brief period of participation in high school, Akinkunmi felt that he “never liked rugby’s culture” and could not develop a passion for the sport. Instead, Akinkunmi saw a future for himself in American football, a sport that welcomes players of all sizes and is a breeding ground for talented Nigerians.
Two years before Akinkunmi came to a decision point, the NFL Academy opened in the UK, so his timing for leaving basketball was ideal.
“The NFL Academy started up, which was a pretty huge deal for the UK, so a lot of people were talking about it when I realized I wasn’t going to make it in basketball. Many folks were enthusiastic about the chances,” Akinkunmi said.
“With American football, you don’t need to adjust. It seems to me that all body types are welcome in this sport. It doesn’t matter if you’re short or tall, large or slim… You can play the sport if you’re athletic; I think that’s something I fell in love with.
“I gave it a shot and I made sure I gave it my all.”
Even Nigerian Emmanuel Okoye, one of Akinkunmi’s most esteemed NFL Academy rivals, committed to Tennessee before this season, has yet to make the squad. Akinkunmi, on the other hand, announced audaciously that he would be prepared to dive right into the action after enrolling in college at Oklahoma in January 2024.
“According to the coaching staff I spoke with, they anticipate that I will start playing right away. They have a lot of men departing, so my chances of beginning my first year are going to be quite strong – and I’m prepared. I’ve been prepared for this for three years… since day one,” he declared.
“I kept honing my art because I thought I would be something great. I may be the best in Europe, but it doesn’t mean [anything]. I desire to be the best in the entire globe. I’ve always thought that way. I don’t desire to resemble anybody else. My desire to be Daniel Akinkunmi already sets me apart from others.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Osi Umenyiora, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants who, like Akinkunmi, was born in England but comes from a Nigerian family, predicted success for the 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman.
Daniel has garnered all of the attention. He is a very talented football player and an offensive lineman. Earlier this month, Umenyiora stated, “I think he’s going to achieve tremendous things.
Despite having tremendous acclaim and the title of best prospect in Europe hanging over him, Akinkunmi denied feeling under pressure.
“I don’t feel any pressure, at least not personally,” the speaker said. I adore the activity. He remarked, referring to himself as ‘totally infatuated’ with American football, “When you love the sport, you just play the sport and any good thing that happens, happens.”
Aside from his love of the game, Akinkunmi thinks the mental toughness he inherited from his Nigerian family will serve him well on his next voyage.
My extended family is Nigerian on both sides. I think the sense of family they gave me was wonderful. They have shaped my attitude to be a warrior, a fighter, and never to give up. You keep going even when it’s difficult, he remarked.
Every time I get onto the field, I bring that attitude. I treat every play as if it were my last whenever I had one.
“In this world, you can never predict what will happen. I may be rushing about when you’re having a play and, god forbid, damage myself. However, being a great player requires that you treat every move as if it were your last and defend yourself as if it were your last.
“I devote myself fully. Unless I can’t walk or move, I’m not leaving the field… Because of my African heritage, I believe we all possess that. We are fighters and warriors and won’t give up until we excel.