Ikem Okeke was recognized early in his Bishop Gorman football career as a next-level talent. Pac-12 schools including Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington all showed interest by his junior season. But when it came to offers, he had only Nevada, UNLV and Montana State in the picture after his junior year - then Hawaii stepped in late in the game.
“I decided to wait to make a decision my senior year because I wanted to get out of the state of Nevada and go play somewhere, maybe on the West Coast,” Okeke said. “Hawaii offered me so I went on a visit, took a look at their campus, checked out their schedule for next year. A couple of schools that talked to me and never offered me were on that list.
“I decided Hawaii is out of Nevada, I get a chance to play some schools that talked to me and didn't give me the opportunity, so I might as well try to help turn the program around over there and show all the schools that never did offer me that they should have given me a chance.”
Okeke was born in Philadelphia, but has spent nearly all his life in Nevada. He said he wanted to broaden his horizons in the next stage of his life.
Although he liked the way the two in-state schools had played this season, he was excited to check out an offer from Hawaii.
“I really liked the way Nevada did last year,” Okeke said. “UNLV, they are trying to turn the whole program around and do something big for the city. I liked what they were doing, but I feel we can do the same thing for Hawaii. I think that since Hawaii is the only school in the area, we can get the support of everybody on the island.”
Okeke took his official visit to Hawaii and he was already familiar with the new defensive coordinator, Kevin Lempa. Lempa had been in communication with Okeke while coaching at Boston College and was ready to offer in his new position at Hawaii.
While Okeke took his official visit on the last weekend before national signing day, he got to experience some football atmosphere on the islands.
“This was my first time ever being in Hawaii,” Okeke said. “I loved it, they taught me how to surf, they had great food over there. I very much recommend it to all the people who did receive an offer to take a visit during the season and be over there. When I was there, it was after the season, but the pro bowl was going on so the whole city was electric. That’s how I feel we can get it for our own college football games.”
On the field, Okeke ranks as one of Scout.com’s top outside linebackers to commit to a school outside of the Power-5. He ranked 45th nationally at OLB, with only SMU and San Diego State earning commitments of higher ranked players across the country. Okeke also ranked 10th in the West, and was the No. 1 outside linebacker in Nevada.
“They told me that since everybody is pretty much new to the program, a whole new coaching staff and everything, that the spot I’m playing in is pretty much up for grabs for everybody,” Okeke said. “ If I do good in the summer I can earn a spot early and play early. I’ll be playing outside linebacker
"They have me playing the same type of style as (high school). They want me to practice man-to-man because they are going to have the linebacker manned up with the slot receiver a little bit. Mainly guarding slots and watching the run.”
In the classroom, Okeke is considering majoring in accounting, but is still open to other options.
Make sure you check back Wednesday to see which future Hawaii Rainbow Warrior is featured next!
Monday's feature on Josh Hauani'o
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