Hakeem Akinola's Journey

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Hakeem Akinola moved to Burtonsville, Md. to attend high school at Paint Branch after spending the first 14 years of his life living in Washington D.C. He began playing football as a sophomore becoming an All-District player by his junior year. Akinola landed in Fullerton, Calif. when high school ended to continue his football career at Fullerton College.

"In my first year, I took a redshirt to focus on getting better, stronger, and to give myself more preparation for the next level," said Hakeem Akinola. "In my second season I was injured the day before our first game which kept me out to the fourth week. When I came back I tore my meniscus, and that was the end of that season."

Akinola, 6-foot-4, 287-pounds, would rehab his injury and come back strong for Fullerton in 2011 with 22 tackles, eight-and-a-half tackles for loss, one sack, and one fumble recovery.

"In my third year, it felt so good to finally get to play," Akinola said. "I did pretty well. I could have done better, as always. With Junior (Gauta) and I on the field together, no offense could stop us. Playing defensive tackle, I'd say my biggest strength is as a pass rusher and if you asked my coaches I think they would agree."

After teammate Ioane Gauta came back from a visit to Manhattan, Kan. Akinola decided he would do the same and came away impressed with what he saw.

"When I was looking for a college it was all about the coaches," Akinola said. "I wanted to find the staff I thought like I would do the best under. During my visit, Kansas State felt like the right program for me. I loved the facilities. The field is great, the indoor practice facility is kind of cool too. I also loved the campus. My player host on the trip was Nigel Malone, who played junior college in California too, in the Bay Area.

"I've kept up with the Wildcats the last two seasons. They had a good season making the Cotton Bowl. I think they got up as high as eighth in the nation during the year. I won't be there until June, but I touch base with Coach Latimore a couple of times a week."

Akinola thinks his time at Fullerton College has helped him mature as a football player and as a person to come into Manhattan this summer and compete for playing time right away.

"I was always was a work in progress," said Akinola. "Coming all the way from Maryland to California without too much family to turn to, I quickly went from a young man to a grown man. The process has helped me become stronger mentally. I know when I get to the next level I'm going to have to work even harder to be successful, but I'm ready for it."

Akinola is hoping for a medical redshirt for his second year at Fullerton and thus have a sixth year of eligibility to work with at Kansas State. He plans on finishing classes in May and returning to Maryland for a short period of time, before leaving for Kansas State this June.

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