Feb. 6, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Faith Ekakitie wanted three things from the university he would select to pursue an education and football career.
First, the native of Toronto, Canada, wanted to play in a warm climate. Second, he wanted to attend a large school in the heart of a big city. Third, he wanted to play for a big-time program in a powerhouse conference.
But sometime between his junior year of high school and National Signing Day on Feb. 1, 2012, Ekakitie had a revelation of what was truly important in the student-athlete experience.
"There are kids that do make decisions on that. I'm not going to say it's a terrible thing, but it's not the smartest thing," said Ekakitie, a University of Iowa freshman defensive lineman. "I'm happy I'm here. I'm happy I woke up and came to my senses."
Ekakitie selected the Hawkeyes over Northwestern, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Oregon. The 6-foot-3, 280-pounder is from Brampton, Ontario, but he completed his high school career at Lake Forest (Ill.) Academy.
At the prodding of his high school coach, Ted Stewart, Ekakitie began exploring collegiate playing opportunities during his junior season. Stewart encouraged Ekakitie to specifically visit the University of Iowa, and he did, making an unofficial visit during spring practice.
"Back then (Iowa) wasn't my ideal school, but then again, I was young and I had a certain set of criteria I was looking for in schools," Ekakitie said. "Later in the recruiting process I realized what I was looking for was completely wrong, so that changed my view on everything."
"Any recruit that tells you they don't look at all that stuff would be lying. You're a young kid, you have people writing articles on you, you're in the spotlight, so I feel it can get to your head a little bit. You start looking up where you're ranked, who might offer you, where people think you will go to school. The attention and the buzz is fun, but at the same time, if you get too consumed with all that stuff, that's when your priorities can get a little out of line. A lot of kids start making mistakes."
UI defensive lineman
"The atmosphere was crazy," he said. "It was fun."
It was during his official visit when Ekakitie sat down with Hawkeye coaches to digest what they had to offer. The biggest selling point was that former Hawkeyes Adrian Clayborn, Karl Klug, Christian Ballard, Kenny Iwebema and Jonathan Babineaux were all playing in the NFL. Mike Daniels followed in the 2012 NFL Draft.
"The first thing that impressed me was the number of defensive linemen they were sending to the NFL," Ekakitie said. "Numbers don't lie when you start looking over the past eight, 10 years in the NFL. That was huge for me."
Ekakitie first heard from the UI through mail. There was a questionnaire to fill out, more letters, some hand-written, and visits by Hawkeye assistant coaches whenever they were in the Chicagoland area. Meanwhile, Ekakitie took an occasional peek at recruiting websites to get caught up on all the chatter.
"Any recruit that tells you they don't look at all that stuff would be lying," Ekakitie said. "You're a young kid, you have people writing articles on you, you're in the spotlight, so I feel it can get to your head a little bit. You start looking up where you're ranked, who might offer you, where people think you will go to school. The attention and the buzz is fun, but at the same time, if you get too consumed with all that stuff, that's when your priorities can get a little out of line. A lot of kids start making mistakes."
As Signing Day neared, Ekakitie felt he was playing a game of eenie meenie miney mo.
"When it came down to it, I really couldn't find too many negatives about the schools I had left on my list," Ekakitie said. "It was a stressful time for me trying to narrow everything down; pressure from your parents, pressure from your friends, sometimes coaches pressure you also."
Faith's parents, Jimoh and Grace, left the final decision to him.
"At the end of the day they were fully supportive of wherever I wanted to go," Ekakitie said. "Their major concern was for me to go somewhere where they knew I was going to be taken care of and I wasn't going to be left out there on my own to fend for myself."
The place offering the most support and the best structure was the University of Iowa.
"I'm here, and I'm happy," Ekakitie said.
Like Ekakitie, many of the recruits who will become Hawkeyes on Wednesday, Feb. 6, will spend their first season at the UI adjusting and learning as a redshirt.
"There is always that competitive side of you that wants to get in there right away, play, and try to contribute," Ekakitie said. "But I'm also a team player, so I'm willing to do whatever it takes to help the team the most. It's never easy watching from the sideline, but at the same time, you know you have to pay your dues and your time is eventually going to come."
His time is near.
"I am so excited," Ekakitie said. "I can't wait for spring ball to roll around."