All new to Oluwole Betiku

Serra 2016 defensive end Oluwole Betiku was given a piece of white paper in Nigeria that changed his life. Now Betiku hopes to turn that white paper into green paper with a degree in Engineering and a possible shot to play professional football one day.

While Gardena (Calif.) Serra junior defensive end Oluwole Betiku is still a teenager, he has done more and seen more in his life than most adults.

Yet, even for this Nigerian native still somewhat new to the United States, the recruiting process can be overwhelming. Sunday, Betiku received news that he would be offered a scholarship by USC.

The school located in Betiku’s new backyard has already made quite the impression.

“I got the message from my coach, it said, ‘Call me, I’ve got good news,’” explained Betiku. “I kind of knew what was coming because I’ve been waiting for the USC offer for a long time. And I feel like I’ve done enough to earn it now.

“I was just waiting on it, so immediately I called and I talked to Coach (Chris) Wilson. He gave the phone to Coach (Steve) Sarkisian. Coach Sark told me I had an offer. I was just so happy man, you know? I was speechless.

“A degree from USC is like you’re being set up. USC has a good alumni base. With or without football, it’s a great school. You’ve got a lot of connections involving USC that’s way more than football.

“It just goes through my mind that a degree from USC is a big deal anyway. And also, if you can’t play, you can’t play at USC.”

Education is what brought Betiku to the United States last year. Earning a visa by way of the Xtreme Procision International Camp, Betiku moved from Nigeria to Forestville (Md.) and attended Bishop McNamara High School.

While the Xtreme Procision International Camp provided Betiku a stage to show off his athletic ability, that only got him halfway through the process of earning a visa to the U.S..

“You have to apply for a visa and then you go for the interview,” said Betiku. “I had to reschedule my interview like three times, and sometimes it would be too full. When you get to the interview place, you meet like hundreds of people.

“You wait in the line like five hours. When you finally get in, you’re dealing with different types of people. Some are like mean and some are nice. You’re standing there talking through the glass praying to God that your number is called to a nice person’s station.

“The person that called my number denied the five people before me. Then she called my number…I was like scared. I was praying in my mind. I was scared. I couldn’t even like…I was stammering when I was talking because I figured she was probably going to deny me.

“My dad was right beside me to back me up. She asked all of the questions. She asked me the address of where I would be staying. You have to know like the zip code, you have to know everything. You have to know every detail of the school and the family you’re going to live with.

“The camp you went to, the coach who found you, how long you’ve been playing football, what sports you played before football… like a lot of questions man. So I answered everything right and she just gave me the white paper. They call it the white paper.

“As long as they give you the white paper, you’re good. If they give you the white paper, you can come and pick up your visa in like three days. If they give you the blue paper, that means they deny you. So when they went to the white paper side, I was like, ‘Oh my god... finally!’”

The timing of Betiku’s visa made that process that much more difficult. Betiku applied for his visa just days before the Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt in April of 2013.

“Americans don’t realize this, but an American Visa is like golden,” said Betiku. “To come here as a legal immigrant is very hard.

“Unless you’re a millionaire or something and they just check your account and say ‘Oh, you’re good to go.’ For a normal person, it’s really hard. People can kill for an American visa.

“So when those kids from Russia did the whole bomb blast [the Boston Marathon bombing], man, I thought it was over. I thought I’d never get an opportunity to come over here because we had the Boko Haram thing going on, so things were really tight.

“People got denied everyday. That’s why I was so happy to get that visa. That was like the first step. Immediately, I said anything is possible if I can get a visa here.”

Betiku grew up playing soccer and basketball in Nigeria, although he realized soon enough that he wasn’t really built for either sport. Thus, he decided to give American football a try and performed for Ricardo Dickerson and Xtreme Procision.

“I played soccer, but I wasn’t like a professional,” said Betiku. “I didn’t take soccer seriously. It wasn’t like I wasn’t good. I’m probably better than every American kid in soccer.

“When I step on the soccer field here, I’m better than everyone. But in Nigeria, I sucked. (laughs) I was like the come-up player. I just played backyard soccer. We just used tires to set up posts and just played for fun.

“When I started getting bigger, they told me I was too big to play soccer. Everyone told me to go play basketball. ‘You can be like Olumide Oyedeji or Hakeem Olajuwon.’ But when I was going to all of the basketball camps, most guys getting selected were really tall guys that could block shots and I wasn’t a shot blocker. Immediately, when I saw an opportunity to come all the way over here for football, I took it.”

Betiku not only took the opportunity, but he ran with it. He headed for the states and eventually met up with former Washington Redskins linebacker Lavar Arrington, who through the Xtreme Procision training system, helped mentor Betiku.

When Arrington moved to Los Angeles for a job with the NFL Network, Bentiku joined him.

“I love the West Coast because they love football players,” said Betiku. “They’re just real on the West Coast. They don’t care where you come from — if you are Samoan, Chinese, Nigerian. Everyone is just real with you.

“At least compared to the East Coast, where everybody cares about where you come from or who you are. On the West Coast, everybody’s just mixed up. Like Southern California, you have every kind of race. I like the way it’s like real diverse in every way. And I like the way football is real big time.

“It’s like a culture. Everyone’s playing football. Everyone takes football as a full-time job here. First when I came, coming from Nigeria, I didn’t know it was this serious. We have practice everyday. We have to go in the meeting room. Do all this, do all that.

“After the season is over, we’re talking about next season already. Everybody looks at college games like their a pro team. It’s been really a good experience.”

Thus, it’s easy to see how Betiku’s 13 scholarship offers over the last six months have come as a blessing and somewhat of a curse.

“It’s so much stress,” said Betiku. “All of these programs (offering scholarships) are not small programs. They’re big programs and you don’t want to be in the position where you look and say ‘I wish I would have went to this school instead.

“If you didn’t have all of these options, it would be different - it would be easier. But when you have these options, it makes the decision really hard for me. I’m not going to lie.

“The more offers that come, the harder it is. You have more options and you’re thinking, ‘Am I going to make a mistake that I’m going to regret for the rest of my life?” But if you had just one offer, and it was the only option you had, then you have to go to just this school.

“The more offers you have, the harder it gets for you because you have a lot of coaches you have to keep up with. Sometimes people ask you how many offers you have and you can’t even remember them off the top of your head.

“But before my senior year, or senior season, I will start narrowing down my top schools, so I can, if I want to, commit early. I can commit real early. I can start talking to the coaches, watching tapes, looking at the position I’m going to play and everything.”

At Serra, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound junior plays both defensive end and stand up outside linebacker. This past season, Betiku finished with 59 tackles and 11.5 sacks.

His projected position at USC would be similar to what he does at Serra now.

“I went to about three USC games, one practice and had one unofficial visit,” said Betiku, who wants to major in Engineering. “It was beautiful there. Then I went to two UCLA games and one unofficial visit. That was nice as also.

“It’s fun to go to all of these schools because I’m still a junior. Someone’s not going to pay for a visit, and funds are low, so it’s just the California schools right now. But definitely, when I’m a senior, I’d like to see more schools. I’d like to see Notre Dame, Oklahoma, so many other schools. I’m just going to narrow it down to my five visits and select the schools that I feel I might go to.”

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