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Archive for Thursday, September 7, 2006

Kansas safety learns quickly

Oguntodu making name for himself as true freshman

September 7, 2006

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You don't need to bother with a clever moniker for Olaitan Oguntodu. O.O. or O2 or The Next Nigerian Nightmare isn't really necessary.

Just call him Olaitan.

"I don't like nicknames, because my name means something special to me," he says. "It means, 'God's richness never ends.'"

Oguntodu, Nigerian-born and now a strong safety on Kansas University's football team, then talks for a sincere minute about his name, how it has reflected his life and how it has given him a perspective most people just don't see.

"There's been many times where I've been helped by other people that have absolutely nothing to do with me," Oguntodu said. "But they take it upon themselves to help me along the way. My name means that God finds a way to bless me."

When Oguntodu - the youngest of seven children - was 6 years old, his parents decided to move the family to the United States to take advantage of a better education system. His father, Aduk, attended college at North Texas before going back to Africa and saw first-hand the opportunities that America possessed.

Such priorities bleed through in Oguntodu. He was athletic enough and good enough at football to have a nice list of colleges to attend, free of charge. It's apparent listening to him that such an opportunity isn't taken for granted.

"I didn't really understand the process of being recruited or being a scholarship athlete until I got to high school," Oguntodu said. "When I got to high school, my coach told me the potential I had.

"It was all a blessing, with the fact that education comes first. Now that I have the opportunity to pursue that education, it's overwhelming. It's amazing."

Oguntodu graduated from high school early and enrolled at KU in time for spring practices. That helped him earn playing time immediately, as he got action on special teams and as a reserve safety against Northwestern State. He was one of four true freshmen to take the field.

Physically, there wasn't much question. The 6-foot, 200-pound Oguntodu, who has calf muscles the size of grapefruits, was ready for Division I football right away.

But that's not the only reason he's skipping a red shirt.

"He's progressed in the mental aspect of the game tremendously," KU coach Mark Mangino said. "Every day he seems to get better and better and more comfortable with what we're doing."

Injuries to the secondary during preseason camp hurried that process along, and now Oguntodu is being asked to contribute right away.

It's not surprising to Mangino, nor to Oguntodu.

"I anticipated that with my work habits that I could put myself in a position to help the team," Oguntodu said. "Now that I'm getting the opportunity, I'm just glad. I'm very excited and just taking it all in."

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