The Riverdale (Ga.) High School defensive end’s reaction wasn’t one to write home about. Since then, the trek from his home to The Hill has altered his view.
“I was really excited about Tennessee. SEC school,” Okonya told InsideTennessee. “But I’ll say I wasn’t too hype on them from the jump. It took me awhile to get on them. Then I took a visit and I’m feeling good about them.”
The combination of length and athleticism possessed by the Scout four-star prospect are exactly what Butch Jones wants coming off the edge of his Vols defense. The appeal of junior days on top of recruits investing in their own futures with unofficial visits have been key in getting the junior to give Tennessee a chance.
After taking a trip north to Rocky Top back on March 7, Okonya made it back to Knoxville two more times this spring “taking my parents to a couple places.”
“Typical stereotype with SEC school, ‘Oh they just want to play football.’ But I went down there, learned a lot about the academic program and the programs they have for players after college. I’m liking what I was hearing,” he said.
Leading the charge to convince the No. 4-ranked end in the Peach State’s 2016 class to play at Tennessee is defensive line coach Steve Stripling.
“He’s a good guy,” Okonya said of the Vols assistant going into his third season on Rocky Top. “He’s every into coaching, and he’s an easy guy to get along with.”
The end is familiar with Tennessee rising junior and cornerback Cameron Sutton as both hail from the same Clayton County in Georgia. The Jonesboro native Sutton is one of the most recognized Big Orange talents, which figures to only help in the recruitment of Okonya.
The campus at Tennessee impressed the No. 39-ranked defensive end in the nation but buildings, concrete and equipment don’t drive Okonya.
“They quite possibly have one of the best facilities in America as far as college football,” he said. “That’s not what I was really there for.”
The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder is as advanced in the classroom as on the gridiron, owning a 4.1 grade point average to go along with membership in the National Honor Society and BETA Club. He also participated in the FalCan Food Drive.
As a sophomore, he compiled 30 tackles with two fumble recoveries and a sack.