Thr Rice Football staff set out on a mission early last spring to improve its speed and depth all over the Defense - particularly in the Secondary. For a 4-2-5 Defensive scheme to be highly effective, play from the Safeties has to be stellar. They've done a fantastic job of finding players that can run and that also have a large degree of utility value - several of the commits will start out at Cornerback, but could end up growing into Safeties.
One such player is Tolulope "Tolu" Akinwumi, who at 6-1 195 pounds is already perfectly suited to play either position.
Akinwumi's story is quite interesting.
As many Canadians do, he played at the "prep" school level this year. Having to basically get himself recruited, he sent his film out to several schools in December - very late by what we've become used to.
One of the schools recruiting Tolu was Louisville. A member of the Cardinals' staff had been referred to Akinwumi through a football camp in Canada. Tolu soon learned that Louisville had filled up at Safety by December, but they did a feathered friend a big favor. They told Akinwumi maybe he could be an "Owl", if not a "Cardinal". Akinwumi sent film to Rice Coach Darrell Patterson, who by this time had already received a tip about the promising young player from Ontario.
Patterson contacted Akinwumi and a trip was scheduled. Tolu, like his roommate at Rice last weekend Hosam Shahin, didn't know much about Rice before talking to Patterson, but learned quickly that the school had two things both he and his parents wanted - peerless academics and winning football. The warm weather in Houston was also a big plus. Akinwumi is originally from Nigeria so the climate here in Texas is much more comparable to his native land.
"I just fell in love with Rice when I went there. They have everything I want. First I really wanted an Ivy League caliber education. I actually got some interest from the Ivy League but they don't give scholarships and the level of play isn't like D-I, so I was looking for something that would give me academics and a little higher level of football. Rice was 10-3 this year so I think the combination there is perfect. I really liked the weather there too - it was like 80 degrees when I visited. Its about - 20 degrees Celsius here (Ontario) right now."
Akinwumi also liked the coaching staff at Rice.
"The coaches at Rice were all very nice and straight forward - I liked that. I could also tell that the players had a good chemistry there. It was just a perfect fit."
Not surprisingly, academics were what sealed the deal for Tolu.
"I'm planning on majoring in Environmental Engineering at Rice. I liked the degree programs they have for my field of study and I really liked the class sizes at Rice too. The size of the campus and the student body was just right too. Rice has about 4,000 students which is what I'm looking for - a little bit smaller atmosphere. I visited Oregon and there were so many students everywhere. The campus was huge."
As mentioned, Akinwumi's size and athleticism make him a particularly intriguing prospect. He played Wide Receiver and Safety for Brampton (Ontario) Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School. At 6-1 195 pounds already he could be the "big" Cornerback colleges seek to match-up against the 6-3 and 6-4 Receivers dotting almost every Rice opponent's roster. If Akinwumi doesn't stay at Corner, he could easily play his natural position of Safety or even Linebacker. His ball skills also make a strong case for him seeing playing time on Offense. Overflowing with athleticism, Tolu also has exceptional return skills as seen on his highlight films.
Tolu told me he was through with recruiting and relieved to have his college decision made.
"It's a big weight off my shoulders. I'm happy I can just focus on finishing school and then go play football."
I can't wait to see Akinwumi in a Rice uniform - what about you? His senior stats are included below...
Welcome To Rice, Tolu!
Has excellent instincts as a Defensive player. Plays the ball extremely well and at 195 pounds is a solid tackler capable of making the big hit. Has a very lean and muscular build, hardly any body fat at all on his 6-1 frame. Has run a 4.18 second pro-shuttle.
Senior Stats (7 games):
Tackles - 46
Tackles for loss - 4
Interceptions - 2
QB Sacks - 2
Qb Pressures - 3
Safeties - 2
Rushes - 5 for 75 yards
Receptions - 12 for 153 yards
Touchdowns - 1