University of Tennessee commit Chidi Okonya didn’t have much interest in playing football until watching his older brothers don the helmet and pads in high school.
“Well Chika (Okonya), my second oldest brother was a captain like figure when he played on the team, and that followed through to Chinedu (Okonya), although he was less vocal,” Okonya told the AJC. “He was definitely a prominent figure on the team, so that set it up for me when I got there.”
Okonya, who is the fourth of five boys, calls it the “older brother effect.” The motivation from his elder brothers inspired him to start playing football.
“I began playing football just before high school, but didn’t really know the game until my freshman year,” he said.
Now the 6-foot-6, 230-pound defensive end from Riverdale High School is the No. 24 overall prospect in the state of Georgia.
Out of the 26 offers Okonya received, the Volunteers beat out ACC schools Duke and Clemson.
Here are a few things things to know about Chidi Okonya:
Hidden talent: “I have a 4.0 GPA right now. That’s something I’d like to note. I’m not just a football player.”
What did you do for fun this summer: “Yeah, I played football and went to a couple 7-on-7’s. We went to (UGA) and I performed pretty well there. I got like two interceptions and we also went to a 7-on-7 at Cam Newton’s (camp). At Cam Newton camp that was my first time actually playing the position.”
Why UT: “I definitely wanted academics to weigh in a large part and I liked Tennessee’s college of business…and I also wanted to play on that big football stage.”
Why Tennessee beat out Duke and Clemson: “It’s just a power football conference (in the SEC). Most definitely, the best collection of teams anywhere in the country. As far as each team individually, they’re just all powerhouses… I know it’s a big thing that’s every kid football player’s dream.”
What are you like on the field: “I tend to have a short temper when it comes to football…I’m supposed to be a vocal leader and I take up that role. I don’t (taunt) more than I have to I guess. Not as far as talking, but like making tackles you look at them, step over them and stuff like that.”
Best football memory: “It was this past year… It was a simple run play. I got in the backfield and I kind of forced the hand-off. I made the tackle and instead of bringing him down I ripped out the ball and took it back for a touchdown.”