BRADENTON, Fla. — Football wasn’t on Chris Akporoghene‘s radar came to the United States from Nigeria during his sophomore year of high school. Akporoghene arrived in Seymour, Tenn., from the Delta State expecting to further his basketball career. At about 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Akporoghene figured he had promise on the hardwood. To him, football was soccer. The shape of the ball simply didn’t make sense to him, especially coming from a country where rugby isn’t a major sport.
He showed up late during basketball season his first year at The King’s Academy, so the football coaches encouraged him to come out for spring ball. They stuck him at defensive end first, and eventually gave him cracks at defensive tackle as well as guard and tackle on offense.
Unsurprisingly, some of the basics were lost on the foreign lineman.
“I didn’t know what a yard was,” Akporoghene told DieHards on Friday after IMG Academy wrapped up practice in Bradenton. “I remember my first spring scrimmage, my coach from my old school helped me fix my helmet in the middle of the game because the thing kept popping off.”
After one season at King’s Academy, Akporoghene transferred to IMG to play his senior year. He’s now a 3-star tackle in the 247Sports composite for the Class of 2019 and fighting for a spot on the Ascenders’ loaded offensive line.
Even if he is one of the odd men out, Akporoghene’s physical tools and experience at IMG has made him an attractive target this cycle. He claims 25 offers with a number of national powers, including Miami, in the picture. He’s already visited Oregon and expects to check out at least another half-dozen schools in the summer.
He’s not all untapped potential, either. Akporoghene proved his ability at the Rivals 3 Stripe Camp’s stop in Celebration, Fla., when he earned offensive line MVP honors Feb. 20. His time with the Ascenders is already paying dividends.
“It’s been amazing,” said Akporoghene, who mostly wound up playing tackle and defensive tackle for King’s. “I went to a smaller school, and back there you’re there and you’re the biggest dog. You can dominate basically anybody, but there’s a lot of things I needed to learn, so I came down here. So far, I’ve been learning a lot of things that I didn’t know about.”
Still, he’s more advanced than a player with his level of experience has any right to be. Akporoghene owes much of his early success to his experience on the hardwood. Defensive footwork in basketball is similar to what’s used in pass protection, so Akporoghene has a high baseline from which to work. Akporoghene admits one of his biggest weaknesses as a basketball player was getting into foul trouble because of accidentally knocking into people while moving in space. As a run blocker, Akporoghene doesn’t have to worry about incidental contact — he’s now seeking it out.
The bigger focus right now, however, is making sure his transcript is sorted out. Akporoghene is a good student, but moving from another country means there’s a lot of paperwork to get sorted out — particularly since he wants to enroll early.
With football and school priorities, Akporoghene’s recruitment has taken something of a back seat. The Hurricanes offered Feb. 1, but only talk with Akporoghene about twice a week as he tries to sort through his chaotic transition. Right now, the lineman is hoping to visit Miami Gardens, Fla., at some point in the fall for a game. The Hurricanes could also host him sometime this summer, although Georgia tech, Duke, LSU, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Tennessee and Memphis all stand out as potential visit destinations, too.
He wants to knock out as many as he can, though. Akporoghene doesn’t want to drag his recruitment out to December. A decision could come by the end of the summer.
“I plan on taking some visits, but I haven’t decided what visits yet,” Akporoghene said. “Hopefully before the start of the season I’ll be able to make a decision.”