Football getting serious for Oluokun

The game of football used to be more of a hobby for Foye Oluokun. Things are getting a bit more serious now, as the St. Louis John Burroughs product has received recruiting interest from all over the country, including Northwestern.

For many years, Foye Oluokun treated football as nothing more than a hobby. A son of two Nigerian born parents, Oluokun's childhood is grounded deeply in traditional Yoruban (his native tribe in Nigeria) family values such as deferential respect to elders, kinship, and above all, and emphasis on education.

In his mind, football represented merely a sliver of a broader, more general interest in athletics.

Whereas most Division 1 college football-bound recruits specialize in the sport at an early age, Oluokun's mindset was more passive, laidback, almost as if his athletic ability on its own merits would eventually pay dividends.

It was hardly an approach that guaranteed a future in the college game, much less a direct path to national relevance in recruiting circles. Only recently did the 2013 DB/WR prospect from St. Louis (MO) begin to take football more seriously.

"I played sports for fun for most of my life," Oluokun said. "They were never that important. Academics always came first, and sports were hobbies."

Even now, with his recruitment heating up after he helped lead John Burroughs high school to a 13-2 record and a No. 2 state ranking, Oluokun continues to broaden his horizons. He's a double-double machine for the Bombers' basketball team, and is regularly serenaded with the chant ‘Foye, Foye, Foye, Foye' at home games, a play off the familiar ‘ole, ole, ole, ole' hymn so prevalent at international soccer competitions.

It's experiences like these that allow Oluokun to enjoy athletics in a way that transcends recruiting camps, campus visits and star rankings, where his prowess on the field and on the court is valued not for its effect on his college recruitment, but for the more immediate gratification of the game itself.

"For most of high school, basketball and football were pretty equal," he said. "I was never really serious about either one."

His background has deeply informed his college thought process. Although he's been contacted by successful high-major programs such as Illinois, Missouri and Iowa, Oluokun remains interested in schools with a more distinguished academic track record. He takes pride in the primacy of the word, student, in the term student-athlete, and emphasized that the former will have a stronger influence on his decision.

Northwestern wide receivers coach Dennis Springer visited Oluokun at school and has remained in contact with him via email. He's held NU in high regard since the visit, especially after researching the school's acclaimed business program. NU is part of his top four, with Yale, Harvard and Penn rounding out the group.

"I was thrilled when I saw him at my school," he said. "I knew about Northwestern's academics, so it was a big deal."

With his football recruitment reaching a critical juncture, Oluokun has begun to hone his game, with basketball now relegated to secondary status. He runs and defends routes every day and has gained nearly 15 pounds of muscle since the end of his junior season thanks to a grueling, daily lifting program. He's also lowered his 40-yd dash time from 4.7 to 4.62.

While his position choice at the next level remains a mystery, Oluokun prefers the defensive side of the ball, and said that college coaches view him as a safety.

"I'm open to playing wide receiver or defensive back," he said. "I played corner in high school, but everyone's been telling me that I have a safety's body. I'd be happy playing there."

Oluokun has a busy summer ahead of him. Besides attending multiple recruiting camps, the senior-to-be plans to play in a school basketball tournament. But he's made it a point of emphasis to visit NU, most likely at the end of July.

"Everything I've read and heard about it [Northwestern] is great," he said. "I just want to get to campus and see it in person. With the academics and the football program getting better, I could definitely see myself there in the future."

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