There are victories in recruiting that are significant long before a prospect ever steps on campus. Tennessee notched one of those wins on Wednesday.
In a rather slow time for sports news, the Vols were on the front page of ESPN.com (not just the college football page) and other sports media outlets for landing a prospect with an incredibly intriguing back story and more potential than any prospect in recent history. Stories about Okoye, who is from Nigeria and resides in London, received hundreds of thousands of views, which is free publicity for the Vols even if he never pans out in college.
Athlete Emmanuel Okoye is projected as a defensive end thanks to his freakish ability. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Okoye with a 72-inch wingspan has already posted a 45.5-inch vertical jump and a 11-foot, 3-inch broad jump. Both of those testing results would have been the best for defensive ends in the recent NFL combine.
Now, we’ve all heard of outlandish workout numbers being reported and, most often, they should be questioned. High school coaches want their prospects to look great so workout numbers can be, well, enhanced. Most of the workout numbers shouldn’t be trusted unless the time are posted on a college football campus or in a sanctioned camp. Well, Okoye posted his workout numbers at the NFL Academy in London, so they should be pretty trustworthy. It’s the NFL after all.
Okoye may be a project that needs a couple of years to develop or he may show up on campus this summer ready make an impact for the Vols. Either way, he’s helped Tennessee’s football program thanks to the publicity his signing received from the national media.
There have been other recruiting victories that were a win long before a signee proved fruitful in the fall. Mostly, those victories were saving face by not losing a prospect that had strong ties to the Vols, but there are other examples in which a signing alone is a huge positive.
Defensive back Eric Berry from Fairburn, Ga., is one prime example. By landing one of the highest rated players in the land, Tennessee showed they still had some fight in the tough times that unfolded in the late 2000’s. The Vols would have taken a huge blow had Berry gone elsewhere considering his father played for Tennessee.
Running back Jalen Hurd is another example. The Vols saved face by landing one of the top prospects in their state when the highly rated prospect from Hendersonville, Tenn., signed with the Vols. Had Tennessee not landed Hurd, it would have been a sign of weakness. Then, there’s the reach factor.
Tennessee has shown its recruiting reach for decades. Landing west coast players like quarterback Casey Clausen were bold statements that the Vols could recruit anyone anywhere. Securing a commitment from former offensive lineman Michael Munoz was a clear indication that the Vols could go into Ohio and land a player with incredible lineage. Munoz’ father, Anthony Munoz, was one of the best lineman to ever play football.
Okoye has already had that kind of impact and he’s still six time zones away.
“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,” Kris Durham told ESPN.com.
Durham, a former Georgia receiver who is an international football consultant for the NFL Academy, didn’t specify that Tennessee would be the landing spot for European athletes looking for a gridiron to play on instead of a pitch, but the Vols have certainly proved they have the connections to land another Euro or two.
The players above had mixed results in their college careers. However, they all were monstrous wins in recruiting. In some cases those commitments showed how dominant Tennessee football can be. In some cases, those commitments showed that Tennessee football was still relevant despite on-field struggles.
Okoye is clearly that type of impact prospect that brings positive publicity in tow. The Vols landed his services over Southern California and got a ton of exposure for doing so. That shouldn’t be taken lightly – just like Okoye’s athletic ability.