Defensive end Abi Okonji (South Gwinnett/Snellville, Ga.) had a handful of offers prior to Jan. 6, but his most recent from Maryland grabbed his attention. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound hybrid heard from UMD-area recruiter Walt Bell and called the offer “exciting.”
“It’s exciting to hear from the Big Ten. It’s great to widen my opportunities; that’s always a blessing,” said Okonji, who previously had offers from Wake, Boston College, Indiana, Michigan State, Cincinnati and a couple others. “Coach Bell DM’d [direct messaged] me on Twitter and told me I had the offer, and he wanted to get my head coach’s number. That was my first contact with him. I hadn’t really heard from him before that. But I was happy he got in contact and offered me. It’s an offer I’m going to look into.”
Okonji has limited knowledge of UMD, but he’s aware of the peripheral aspects of the school such as the Under Armour connections and the Big Ten affiliation. He’s also watched UMD in action on TV before.
“I saw at the Under Armour All-American game they got a big commitment from Markquese Bell. So seeing that, that’s definitely cool and something that stands out to me. I know they’re getting in some big recruits there,” Okonji said. “And The Big Ten is big-time football right there. I’ve got some offers from the Big Ten and I like that conference and the physicality of the conference. It’s a conference I’d love to play in. That stands out about Maryland too.”
Okonji, though, said he’s “not sure” if he’s going to visit College Park, Md., or not. He has a number of programs he wants to get to and isn’t positive which ones will fit into his schedule.
So far, the South Gwinnett product has seen Florida State and Notre Dame. He’ll be at Kentucky coming up.
“I’m supposed to go up to Kentucky soon and they’re supposed to offer then,” said Okonji. “And a lot of other schools have been in there talking to me. Notre Dame, Wake, Rutgers and Utah, and a few others are involved and want me to visit. I definitely want to get to Wake Forest because they contact me a lot. I really like the coaches there.. Then I’ll see what new offers come in in the spring and visit those campuses. And I definitely want to see all the schools that have already offered.
“But everyone is on the same plane for me right now. No one really stands above anyone else right now. There are some schools pushing for me more than others, but I don’t have any favorites yet.”
He does have a dream school, however.
“Stanford is my dream offer. The balance between academics and athletics is perfect,” Okonji said.
Okonji said when he begins exploring schools he wants to have a “home feel.” He said he’s looking for a program where he can develop a personal bond with the staff and players, can feel comfortable living there for four years, and the environment fits him. Okonji will also be evaluating programs’ defensive schemes and playing time opportunities.
“All of that is important,” said Okonji, who had nine sacks last season.