Tennessee offers Ani Izuchukwu

Tennessee offered a rising star in Nashville on Monday as it takes an early peek at the 2019 class.

Ani Izuchukwu had to use Google to find out what football was when he lived in Nigeria. Now, the Davidson Academy (Nashville) freshman has already received opportunities to play the sport he once didn't know about at the highest collegiate level. Izuchukwu snagged an offer from Tennessee on Monday, his second SEC scholarship invitation after LSU first offered the rising sophomore in January. 

Not bad for someone who used the Internet to figure out what exactly American football is all about.

"I started looking it up on Google," Izuchukwu told InsideTennessee. "I started looking at papers about football. I started watching videos. The one thing I like about football is the hitting. That's what I started liking about football."

The Nigerian-born athlete came to America in hopes of finding opportunities for growth in his newfound sport after a coach in his home country sized him up and determined his 6-foot-4, 219-pound frame was aptly suited for the United States' most popular game.

"I was going to school when a soccer coach called me and said 'Hey, you go play basketball,'" Izuchukwu said. "That's how I started in sports. I started playing basketball and (my basketball coach) introduced me to a coach who was like, 'Your body is good for football. I lived in America and I watched American football a little bit, so you could play football, too.' I said OK, no problem. That's how I started. That's how I came over here." 

Izuchukwu enrolled at Davidson Academy and began work as a tight end before his coaching staff realized the menace he could become on the defensive side of the ball.

"They started working me a little bit there (at tight end), then they said to try defensive end," he told IT. "When I started playing defensive end, no one could stop me at defensive end. In practice, sometimes if I keep bullying, I get tired because I don't want to make my teammates seem like they aren't good. The coach will be like, 'You guys are not doing anything and he's just a freshman. He's like bullying you guys.'"

That reputation as an edge-rushing bully has made Izuchukwu a fast-rising talent in the Volunteer State at a young age. While he isn't able to take in much football on TV while he juggles playing the sport and going to school in his new home, the freshman is able to catch some games and also watches clips of dominant defenders like J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller of the Denver Broncos.

"I don't watch a lot because I've got homework and I'm still trying to figure out my freshman year, like defesive end, tight end and getting my education right, stuff like that. So I don't mostly watch the game," Izuchukwu told IT. "I just watch a little bit. If I want to watch football, I'll watch who plays my position. I don't have any (teams) I watch."

Izuchukwu visited Tennessee last year but doesn't have any trips scheduled on the horizon, noting that he will go to any college that extends an invitation to visit. The class of 2019 prospect raved about the Vols' energetic and optimistic fan base.

"Tennessee has the best fans," he said. "They're really good. I like the fans. Even when they're losing, they keep cheering."

 More offers are sure to pile up as the multi-lingual star continues to gain attention, and Tennessee is hoping its early involvement will pay dividends as programs discover the Nashville product.

"The most important thing that I do every day is pray to God because he keeps me healthy," Izuchukwu said. "I don't want to get injured because that means I'll stop playing. The second is my education. My third one is football. I've got to work hard every day."

Managing editor Danny Parker contributed to this story.


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