Daniel Akinkunmi’s 5,000-mile Oklahoma Sooners official visit

Daniel Akinkunmi’s 5,000-mile Oklahoma Sooners official visit

Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff WriterSep 6, 2023, 09:24 AM ET

CloseESPN staff writerJoined ESPN in 2011Graduated from Central Michigan

Offensive lineman recruit Daniel Akinkunmi stayed up all night before his official visit to see the Oklahoma Sooners this past weekend.

It wasn’t because he couldn’t sleep from anticipation or excitement, though. It was out of necessity. Akinkunmi was traveling from Loughborough, England, to Oklahoma in what would amount to 20 hours of travel time and 4,562 miles logged in one day to see the Sooners in person.

“I have a method any time I travel to the states. The night before, I don’t sleep,” Akinkunmi told ESPN. “I stay up until my flight, then sleep a couple hours on my flight and try to stay awake to get used to the time change. That helps me out so when I come to the U.S. I won’t be jet lagged.”

Akinkunmi, a 6-foot-4, 305-pound lineman from the NFL Academy in England, is a three-star prospect in 2024 and has garnered scholarship offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Duke, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Clemson, Miami, North Carolina, Ole Miss and a handful of other major programs. Because of where he lives, his recruitment has had some unique twists, like spending 20 hours just to take an official visit.

🇬🇧➡️🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/5EGtwSIXhs

— 3⭐️ OL Daniel Akinkunmi (@official_Grind4) August 31, 2023

We here
🇬🇧➡️ 🇺🇸 OU@OU_Football @OU_CoachB @CoachVenables #sooner#boomersooner #BOOMER #OUDNA pic.twitter.com/dkcEK4xDIp

— 3⭐️ OL Daniel Akinkunmi (@official_Grind4) September 1, 2023

His trip to Oklahoma was his second official visit, with the first going to Baylor, but his seventh time in the United States overall.

“The NFL Academy takes us on trips to the states each year,” Akinkunmi said. “The NFL plans a week or two-week long trip, they select a few people from the NFL Academy that they think have that talent. Then we go to multiple camp circuits and multiple unofficial visits.”

The annual trips that typically take place in the spring. This season, they also had three games they play against American teams.

They played against IMG Academy varsity white team on June 10 in Loughborough, and on August 25, they played Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast in Dublin. They will play Erasmus Hall on Oct. 10, as well, in London. The Academy has European teens from the age of 16 to 19 attend their school and program, where they have three years to learn football. Akinkunmi is 18-years-old and now looking for a new place to play football.

For his visit to see the Sooners, his day started by driving with his mother three hours to the airport to make their 11:45 a.m. flight.

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“From Atlanta, we had to wait three hours, then Atlanta to Oklahoma City was about an hour and a half. Then we had a car pick us up and it was another 20 to 25-minute drive to the hotel in Norman,” Akinkunmi said. “We left Thursday morning our time and got there Thursday night around 9 p.m. My mom was absolutely tired, as soon as we got there she went to bed.”

When they got to the hotel room, Akinkunmi and his mother were amazed at what was waiting for them. Oklahoma branded cards and letters were scattered throughout the hotel room along with treats, cookies and a cake with “OU” written on it to resemble a poker chip that coach Brent Venables gives to recruits. Venables gives the prospects a poker chip and, when they’re ready to commit to Oklahoma, they give it back as a symbol that they are “All in,” which is a mantra for Venables and his staff.

“It was amazing,” Akinkunmi said. “The way they decorated the room, the snack table, it was just amazing.”

Because he lives so far away, he usually has to initiate contact with coaches through social media, exchange numbers and then try to find ways to communicate regularly despite a hefty time difference. That can be difficult and has taken time to manage when he can build relationships and how many times he can actually contact a coach.

“Because I don’t have a U.S. number yet, we actually FaceTime because that’s done through WiFi,” Akinkunmi said. “So, normally I FaceTime audio call them and sometimes I have to stay up until 1 a.m. my time to talk to coaches.”

Being on the Oklahoma visit and seeing the coaches in person, it makes it that much easier for him and his mother to get an idea of who the coaches are and how they interact with their players. Both Akinkunmi and his mother came away impressed with Venables and his staff and what they were able to show him on the trip. From the stadium to jerseys, coaches’ offices, the locker room and the facility, Akinkunmi was amazed by the trip.

“It was unreal. Any time I meet a coach in person,” Akinkunmi said. “The FaceTime call … it’s never the same as seeing someone in person and actually talking to them in person. Just seeing them in person is a big relief knowing they’re actually real and making that connection even stronger.”

Room tour @OU_Football pic.twitter.com/3jbNjlrdck

— 3⭐️ OL Daniel Akinkunmi (@official_Grind4) September 1, 2023

First time having wagu pic.twitter.com/4AY6fgB7QZ

— 3⭐️ OL Daniel Akinkunmi (@official_Grind4) September 3, 2023

He jokes that he knows the coaches are real, but it is reassuring knowing the scholarship is real, and he isn’t being catfished by someone pretending to be a coach in the United States.

The NCAA changed a rule to allow prospects an unlimited number of official visits, so Akinkunmi could theoretically see as many schools as he’d like. The 20-hour travel days end up being fun, albeit tiring, but Akinkunmi has taken his last visit and will make his decision on Oct. 12.

He has a top five of Oklahoma, the Baylor Bears, Miami Hurricanes, Ole Miss Rebels and Clemson Tigers, and will have a few more FaceTime connections and long travel days.

For one weekend, Akinkunmi got to experience everything he wanted to and says it was extraordinary travel circumstances were worth it. If nothing else, he got to try Wagyu steak for the first time and the excitement in his voice describing the steak could be felt through the phone.

“It was amazing,” Akinkunmi said. “It was a 12-ounce steak, and I’m just happy I wasn’t the one that had to pay for it.”

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