"When he offered me," Okereke said, "he was saying that before you make a decision, you've got to come up here, because I know you're going to love it."
The three-star defensive end from Santa Ana (Calif.) will visit NU in late July or early August, an immediate sign of his growing interest in the program. Okereke, perhaps more so than any current target, made extensive reference to Northwestern's academic reputation.
Really, the Wildcats need to close on one defensive end. While their search remains wide open, Okereke–with an excellent visit–could be another impressive commitment for this class of 2014. Fitzgerald sold him on some of the most essential points.
"When you look at the statistics, they're a top ten academic school," he said. "The program they're building, they're in contention to win a Big Ten Championship. That's very exciting."
And everyone seems excited these days. After the 10-win season in 2012, prospects continue to mention their lofty expectations for the future of this team. Okereke said NU "is very high up there" on his current list, which also includes Stanford, Cal, Oregon, USC, Washington and Vanderbilt.
Because of this clear West Coast bias, Okereke said his visit to Evanston should be especially important. He likes the coaching staff, as most do, and stepping onto campus might assuage any potential concerns about attending a school far from home.
"It's a beautiful campus," he said. "I want to meet the coaches and players and see how comfortable I'd be in that area."
With all of the recent interest–and the 17 total offers–Okereke is currently at an impasse. That offer list is nearly complete, with UCLA one potential latecomer if they do offer, but every school in contention can make a powerful impression. He'll take some unofficial visits this summer, which should culminate in an important commitment for one lucky school.
"I'm kind of at a crossroads," he said. "I'd like to make my decision before my senior season, so I can get that out of the way."
For now, NU has identified Okereke as one of its current top targets. The coaching staff will work to seal his commitment. It's far from home, but undoubtedly something for the talented defensive end to consider.