football Edit

How football changed life's course for Rivals250 OL Akinola Ogunbiyi

SUGAR LAND, Texas -- There was a time when Akinola Ogunbiyi couldn't manage a single push-up.

That's right -- a relative of Hakeem Olajuwon could not do what most physical education teachers instruct elementary school children to do on the first day of school.

Admittedly, Ogunbiyi was a lazy freshman at Kemper High School. He decided to give football a try but wasn't taking team workouts seriously. He was a bright-eyed ninth-grader along for the ride.

Then Ogunbiyi found his reason why ...

Texas A&M just extended an offer to the young, giant-sized offensive guard, and the next day his mother, Agnes Ogunbiyi, suffered a stroke. The lightbulb upstairs went on for her son, who flipped the switch and realized with a college scholarship offer in hand, there might be more to this football thing.

All of a sudden, Ogunbiyi grew intrigued by the weight room. His coaches began calling plays to accentuate his blocking style -- like 36G where Ogunbiyi would pull to the outside and bulldoze a linebacker or safety in his way. Ogunbiyi's phone began ringing, consistently, with college coaches on Line 1 wanting to talk with him and to visit their campuses. Even current NFL players reached out to give advice on his game.

"Every day that summer I went to strength and conditioning," Ogunbiyi recalled. "That really transformed me. I couldn't do a push-up, and now, I could do 30. I wasn't working out before that. That was the beginning stage of working out, which changed my mind and my body."

"I didn't know about football and what it could do for you. After going on all of these visits and meeting all of these people, talking to people on the phone and talking to NFL guys and following people on Twitter, I realized what football can do for you. Football is a game, but it opens up a lot of things and I'm blessed to be in this position."



Agnes had seen three of her son's football games before suffering a stroke. Now, it's the game Ogunbiyi loves that provides the biggest glimmer of hope for his family.

When the stroke occurred in the summer prior to Ogunbiyi's sophomore year, his older brother was already off to college. That left a 16-year-old to single-handily care for his mother, whose left side was entirely disabled as a result of the unforeseen trauma.

Adjusting wasn't easy, but it was necessary.

Ogunbiyi began waking up at 6 a.m. and learned how to cook. It was a breakfast of eggs, a slice of bread smothered in peanut butter, sauce and a side of coffee, and then off to school by 6:30 a.m. About 12 hours later, Ogunbiyi would return from practice during the season, and on Fridays, closer to 10 p.m.

It was uncomfortable and unideal, but it worked. While Agnes was left alone, Ogunbiyi was sharpening his skills on the field, but the thought of being away from his mother never left him for too long.

"I'm gonna be honest ... I had no help," Ogunbiyi explained. "I had no help for the first year. It made me a better person. The first few weeks were hard to adjust and she wasn't able to eat. It was hard, especially with practice and school. She's home all day, alone, and emotionally it was hard for her. It got her and it got to me, too. Sometimes, I'd come home and she was crying. We got through it and it's the small things I sacrificed -- like my friends asking me to hang out -- but my mom was home alone so I had to hang out with my home."

Ogunbiyi's older brother may be the future engineer, but the four-star lineman was the one who created a basket for her wheelchair to transport food, beverages and other objects around the house. To this day, Agnes continues to use her basket with her meals and waters.

As his recruitment heated up, and schools from outside Texas like Georgia and Oklahoma began to show interest, another wrench was thrown in the plan.

Ogunbiyi was quick to jump on his offer from the Aggies and committed in the summer prior to his junior year. It was the logical choice, but that didn't stymie his interest in Georgia and Oklahoma.

Texas A&M is just about 100 miles from Ogunbiyi's house -- a 90-or-so minute trek that's easily done in a single day. Then there's Oklahoma, a 6.5-hour journey across the Texas border, and Georgia, which requires a flight through Atlanta and drive down to Athens.

Ogunbiyi flirted with the Sooners and nearly committed during the spring game, but saved the drama for the following week when he visited Athens and pledged on the spot. Ogunbiyi was a hand-picked prospect by Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman, which weighed heavily on his mind. So did the thought on being trains, planes and automobiles away from his mother in Sugar Land.

"Those trips hurt the most," Ogunbiyi admitted. "Going to Oklahoma was a day-long trip. Troy Omeire helped me. A few times, his mom would go with my mom when I went on a visit. I'd get someone to be there with her while I was gone. Sometimes, my brother would come for a weekend to spend time with her just so I could go."

Ogunbiyi's flip to Georgia was short-lived, as a return trip to College Station led to the nation's No. 2-ranked guard to flip commitments, again, and this time back to the Aggies.

Sure, Jimbo Fisher and Josh Henson played a crucial role, but give Agnes the assist on this on this one. Ogunbiyi's mother never complained, but the idea of being within a drive of his house made the difference in choosing between SEC schools. Ogunbiyi spent many of mornings cooking breakfast for his mother only to race home 10 or 14 hours later to check on her. The thought of playing his college ball on the other side of the country paled in comparison to losing her presence in his life.

"My mom loves A&M. I mean, her name is Aggy," Ogunbiyi smiled. "I loved both schools. I love Coach Pittman and Coach Henson, Coach (Kirby) Smart and Coach Fisher. If you really think about it, you just never know when your parents are gonna go. I loved Georgia, it was a wonderful place and I know I could succeed at Georgia. I could succeed at Texas A&M, too,"


Georgia has not stopped recruiting Ogunbiyi. Neither has Alabama, for the record, but the Rivals250 offensive guard is content with his commitment to the Aggies.

Ogunbiyi has already suffered a change of heart, on multiple occasions, switching his pledge to Georgia on G-Day and then committing back to Texas A&M in June after a visit back to The Station.

Going back and forth is natural for any recruit, especially a highly touted one in Ogunbiyi's shoes. He's been to Athens, to Norman and to College Station, and sees the pros of each campus and each coaching staff anytime he's in town. Of course, Ogunbiyi has a unique X-factor to consider, which is why Texas A&M has maintained its spot at the top.

"I still get recruited by all of them, but I definitely think Texas A&M is the right spot," Ogunbiyi explained. "It's a lot of time and a lot of thinking and so many things can happen. I got to think about my mom -- not just myself -- and I can go to the NFL and everything, but I don't want to be away for three years and she's all alone. It's about taking your time and thinking and seeing what's possible.

"I believe in Coach Fisher and I've seen the offensive linemen like Bobby Hart, another guy in a similar situation. When it came down to it, there were a lot of great schools and I had to list the pros and the cons. I struggled for sure, but when I was up there (at Texas A&M) with friends, spending time and hanging out, I was close with the 2019 guys and I received a lot of love from them. It felt right."

There is another element to consider.

Agnes watched her son play three football games before her stroke three years ago. She attempted to see one since, but inclement weather became another hurdle to overcome. Ogunbiyi expects that to change when he arrives at Texas A&M.

As difficult as it was for Ogunbiyi to navigate through his recruitment and sort through Texas A&M vs. Georgia, among others, the possibility of looking into the stands and seeing Mom was an opportunity only available at one school.

"On game day, someone can drive my mom up and she can watch my game," Ogunbiyi said. "At Georgia, there's more planning for a two-hour flight and another hour drive to Athens."

"You've got to think of that stuff," he pointed out.