The Tennessee Volunteers added a prospect with a unique pathway to SEC football to their 2023 recruiting class Wednesday.
Chris Low of ESPN reported Emmanuel Okoye will join Tennessee and chose the program over fellow finalists USC and Texas Tech. While Okoye played defensive end and on special teams for his NFL Academy team, the Volunteers may look to move him to tight end.
He is a 4-star prospect and the No. 441 overall player in the 2023 class, per 247Sports' composite rankings.
That he is rated so highly despite little football experience is a testament to his potential.
Football wasn't on Okoye's radar when he grew up in Nigeria, but scouts for Osi Umenyiora's "The Uprise" program invited him to a talent identification camp in Abuja, Nigeria last year.
Low noted his performance there earned an invitation to NFL Africa's talent identification camp in Ghana, where he impressed enough to land a spot at the NFL Academy in England.
He played in just three games for the NFL Academy team, but he turned heads at the organization's combine with a 45.5-inch vertical leap and an 11'3" broad jump.
"His story will undoubtedly pave the way for the future NFL Academy prospects and recruits, driving awareness of the program and the opportunities for its talented student-athletes, and I couldn't be prouder to witness his journey so far, nor be more excited about what his future holds," Kris Durham, who is a former Georgia wide receiver and current international football development consultant for the NFL Academy, said.
Arriving at a high-profile SEC program with just three games of organized football under one's belt is quite an accomplishment, but Okoye played soccer and basketball growing up and has the size (6'5" and 230 pounds, per 247Sports) and athleticism combination to be an impact player at tight end.
It may take him some time to reach his full potential, but Tennessee is trending in the right direction under head coach Josh Heupel and is well-positioned to maximize his talent.
The Volunteers are coming off an 11-2 season that included a win over Alabama and another over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Keeping that momentum alive on the recruiting trail is key, and Okoye can be an important part of their 2023 class.