Emmanuel Okoye, who grew up in Lagos, Nigeria, and was most recently a part of the NFL Academy program in England, said Wednesday that he plans to play college football at Tennessee.
Okoye plans to enroll at Tennessee this summer and would be eligible to play in 2023.
He played in three games last fall for the NFL Academy team — his first and only game experience in organized football — and saw time at defensive end and on special teams. The Volunteers think he could develop into a tight end.
Okoye, 18, grew up playing soccer in the streets of Nigeria and later fell in love with basketball as a teenager. He didn’t know much about football until he was discovered last year by two-time Super Bowl champion Osi Umenyiora’s “The Uprise” program and scouts, who invited him to attend a talent identification camp in Abuja, Nigeria. He impressed enough to be invited to NFL Africa’s talent identification camp in Ghana in the summer.
His showing there earned him a spot at the NFL Academy — an elite player pathway program that opened in September 2019 and aims to use football to create life-changing opportunities for young people around the world — and he moved to the United Kingdom.
Naturally raw as a football player, Okoye showcased amazing athleticism at the NFL Academy combine. He recorded a 45.5-inch vertical leap and an 11-foot, 3-inch broad jump — both of which would NFL combine records for defensive ends. Okoye also has a 72-inch wingspan.
“I am thankful for all the support from everyone who is part of the NFL Academy program, my mentor Osi Umenyiora and all those who have contributed to this special moment for me,” Okoye said as part of a statement released by the NFL. “This is just the beginning of my journey, and I will continue to work hard to grow and learn every day. Whilst I will always be part of the NFL Academy family, I am excited to join the University of Tennessee, and to continue to develop as a player and a young man. I hope I will make my family proud, and that starts with an elite education — which was key to my decision making — and I can’t wait to take this opportunity and give it everything I have.”
Umenyiora, who was born in the U.K. to Nigerian parents and is leading the NFL’s football development efforts in Africa, added: “What an incredible moment for Emmanuel. His athleticism, natural sporting talent and outstanding personal character make him an impressive prospect for the game. … Remember Emmanuel’s name, as he has an exciting future ahead.”
Former Georgia wide receiver Kris Durham, an international football development consultant for the NFL Academy, called Okoye a fantastic example of a crossover athlete who has played football for less than a year yet has shown the talent and work ethic to get a shot to play college football at the highest level.
“His story will undoubtedly pave the way for the future NFL Academy prospects and recruits, driving awareness of the program and the opportunities for its talented student-athletes, and I couldn’t be prouder to witness his journey so far, nor be more excited about what his future holds,” Durham said.
Okoye, rated as a three-star prospect by ESPN, visited Tennessee in April for the Volunteers’ spring game. He also visited USC and Texas Tech in April.
Emmanuel Okoye goes from Nigeria to NFL Academy to Vols commit