Betiku Realizing Dream in U.S.

Oluwole Betiku has been playing football for less than a year, but he already claims one Division I scholarship offer. The Nigerian native, a class of 2016 recruit who came to the United States last summer by virtue of the Ugboaja Ejike Foundation, has significant interest from Maryland.

Oluwole Betiku has been playing football for less than a year, but he already could be closing in on a Division I scholarship offer. The Nigerian native, a class of 2016 recruit who came to the United States last summer by virtue of the Ugboaja Ejike Foundation, has early interest from Maryland and could land a verbal in short order.

The Bishop McNamara (Forestville, Md.) outside linebacker (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) is currently on break, but he said his trainer, Lavar Arrington, and head coach, Keith Goganious, let him know the Terps are highly intrigued.

"I can tell you I did not expect this kind of interest this fast," Betiku said. "I mean, I came over here with the intention of getting a scholarship, but I had no idea it could happen this soon. When my coach called me I was really, really happy and excited. And from Maryland, that's one of the schools I really like, so it's big for me if I get that offer."

It's safe to say Betiku wasn't a Terps fan, or a fan of any college team for that matter, back in Nigeria, but he does have a direct connection to UMD. One of his best friends from back home is Nnamdi Egbuaba, a 2014 Maryland signee who attended St. Frances Academy in Baltimore, Md.

"To be honest, I hear great things about Maryland from Nnamdi," said Betiku, who is also receiving interest from Penn State and Virginia Tech. "We have a very strong connection, and I feel like it would be great to go to school with him and play with him. There are a couple Nigerian players at Maryland now, and I feel like that would make the transition [to college] easier for me if I had friends there who can let me know how things are.

"Also, Maryland is like home now, and I like the idea of staying home. I've seen the uniforms, which are very nice, and I've met the head coach before [Randy Edsall], and he seems like a very nice man. It's a budding local program, and I like it."

Betiku went on to say that he and Egbuaba talk "all the time." He said the latter acts as a mentor of sorts, showing him the ropes and helping him acclimate to the American lifestyle.

"Nnamdi shares his experiences with me and how hard it was for him to adjust at first, to both life here and to football," Betiku said. "He gives me little tips so I don't have to go through the same thing, and it has helped a lot. We get together a lot, and I appreciate what he's doing for me."

The McNamara sophomore, like Egbuaba before him, was first introduced to the gridiron game at a Ugboaja Ejike Foundation camp, held every year in Nigeria. Betiku grew up playing soccer and basketball, showing terrific athleticism, but when he got wind of the camp he decided to give football a try. His power and speed immediately caught the eye of the camp directors, and he was one of the few (out of several hundred) selected to play in the States.

"This was a dream for me and my family, to continue my education in the U.S.," Betiku said. "My family always pushed me to make something of myself, and that's why my dad made sure English was my first language because he believed I could go farther if I knew [English] well. So football is a way for me to continue my dream and to get a college education over here.

"And I love football now. I was big into basketball growing up, but after the camp I started YouTubing all these football videos and I studied them. Now I'm hooked on the game (laughs)."

With his parents' blessing, Betiku left for the States last summer, and while he was set to enroll at St. Frances like Egbuaba, he ended up at Bishop McNamara after his guardians met with Goganious and Arrington. While Betiku did not play football for the Mustangs last season, he practiced with the team and said the coaches have helped him immensely.

"I've done very well already, just using my speed and strength to rush the power and get to the quarterback," Betiku said. "Mainly I'm working on my hands, my technique and my rush moves. I need to be able to trust my moves, trust my technique, because right now I see a guy and I'm like, ‘I can just overpower him or run by him.' But I have to learn how to be more disciplined, use my hands better and all of that."

It's obvious Betiku is well on his way, and apparently he's adjusted to the lifestyle fairly quickly too. He gets along well with his teammates and has already picked up on how Americans carry themselves.

"Everyone I meet here is so cool. I love how people ask me questions and see how I'm doing," Betiku said. "In Nigeria, everyone keeps to themselves and no one really gives many details because it's a very hard life and very private. Here, everyone expresses themselves and I love that. Then the food, the clothes, the stores, I love it all. When I first got here I kept saying how there were so many lights all over the place. In Nigeria you can go three days without seeing this many lights (laughs)."

Betiku is enjoying himself, to say the least, but he does miss his family back home. He said he calls them every other day just to make sure they're doing well.

"Sometimes when I don't hear from them I get worried. We always talk and just describe how everything is, and on weekends they put me [on speaker] and I talk to everyone at once," Betiku said. "It's good to talk to them, but I do miss them. I probably won't see them again until after high school or something.

"But that just makes me go harder on the field and in the classroom so maybe one day I can bring them over here."

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