CU Deion Sanders offers ascending International Prospect – DE Emmanuel Okoye

Coach Deion Sanders and the Colorado Buffaloes have become the latest P5 program to offer one of the fastest rising names on the recruiting scene in Nigerian defensive end Emmanuel Okoye.

Although Okoye has only played three games of tackle football, he’s already earned several DI scholarship offers including a recent one from Coach Prime and the Buffaloes on February 25.

Okoye on the offer:

‘I felt blessed to receive an offer from CU and to be recognized by great people who see my potential.’

Recently, the 6’6″ 230-pound edge defender produced an eye-popping 45.5 inch vertical and ran an impressive 4.5 second 40-yard dash at his prep school’s internal combine.

The international prospect is currently playing at the NFL Academy in the United Kingdom after being scouted in Nigeria by former New York Giant Osi Umenyiora’s Uprise Academy. Okoye could become the third player in Boulder out of the NFL Academy, joining transfer tight end Seydou Traore and incoming freshman linebacker Kofi Taylor-Barracks.

Okoye, a natural athlete, grew up around sports, playing soccer, running track, and finding  himself anywhere competition would take him. Okoye eventually picked up basketball at the age of 15 and quickly fell in love with the hardwood, as his tall frame and explosiveness translated seamlessly to the court.

‘I always loved playing soccer and really, any sports. When I was in high school in Nigeria I played any sport I could get my hands on.’

After posting a few eye-popping dunks on Instagram and fully committing to the sport, Okoye became a budding prospect in Lagos’ basketball circuit, earning himself a tryout at the prestigious NBA Africa Academy, but was unsuccessful in landing a spot on the elite hoops team.

Okoye gradually discovered football, ironically, through a training facility called Educational Basketball that trains promising athletes in both football and basketball in Nigeria’s capital city of Lagos. Olutobi Adepitan, one of the two founders of the group along with his brother Isloupo, remembered Okoye’s impressive dunks from instagram and convinced him to give football a try. Olutobi on his shocking first impressions of Okoye.

‘In January of 2022 he surprisingly showed up to work out. We put him through sprints, shuttle runs, and a 40 yard dash. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He was probably the fastest athlete on the day, including our NFL International Player Pathway players. What he did in the 5-10-5 shuttle blew me away’

The 18-year-old went on to compete in a football camp put on by the NFL in Abuja, Nigeria where he stood out in more ways than one.

‘By the way, he did the whole camp without cleats. It was crazy. He ran the 40-yard dash in his socks and still blew everyone away. I couldn’t believe it… he finished a three day camp with no cleats.’

Despite his lack of footwear, Okoye impressed scouts with his raw athleticism, frame, and 7 ’2 wingspan. Educational basketball sent Okoye and others to the NFL Africa Camp in Ghana, where they were put through combine and positional drills by NFL coaches and former players including Osi Umenyiora, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Jamal Liggins. 

Following another impressive showing in Ghana, the London raised and Nigerian born Osi Umenyiora convinced Okoye and three other Nigerian talents to join the NFL Academy in England. However, the move came at a cost as it meant a full commitment to the gridiron and stepping away from basketball:

“It was a very difficult choice for me to be honest. He (Olutobi) would tell me to just focus on one sport, but It was hard, I really loved basketball. But with the help of my parents I was able to make a decision and everything worked out.”

Since arriving in the UK in September of last year, Okoye has totally bought into football. That commitment has meant preparing to play at the highest level by packing on over 20-pounds, spending hours learning the foreign game, and most importantly, actually strapping on the pads and playing his first ever football games.

‘Transitioning from basketball to football was not too hard for me. The contact aspect surprised me when I first got here, but I’m used to it now. My first game was against IMG Academy (FL), one of the top teams in America. The game speed was different. With that being my first game, it made me adapt quickly and improve faster.’

So far, Okoye has mostly played defensive line as his frame and long arms project him as a promising edge defender. Yet, he also has been practicing as a tight end as he feels he can play a variety of position with his skillset:

Following only three games at the NFL Academy and another impressive combine performance, the talented Nigerian has already racked up offers in February from Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Minnesota, Boston College, Grambling State, UTSA, UAB, and Texas Tech with more on the way.

Colorado fans may be in for more international talent joining coach Prime as Sanders and his staff have put an emphasis on recruiting players out of the NFL Academy. Okoye for one loves the growing connection with CU and the the NFL Academy:

‘The NFL Academy has two phenomenal alumni in Kofi and Seydou at CU dominating at their positions and paving the way for other international students coming after them. They are making it easier for international players to be recognized.’

Alex is a former NCAA and semi-pro American football player who is now located in London, where he works in digital marketing. His goal in writing for AFI is to stay involved with the game that has given him so much. Alex enjoys covering leagues and