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Football was always a sport Bellarmine senior receiver and defensive back Enow Akem looked at.
Akem is a point guard on the varsity boys basketball team and was part of a Bells squad that last season won a West Catholic Athletic League title and was the runner-up to Mitty in the Central Coast Section Open Division championship game. He’s also a long jumper and triple jumper, part of a team that has won 12 consecutive WCAL titles.
But Akem didn’t quite start playing tackle football until this season. His cousin, Epie Sona, who played at Bellarmine and San Jose State, was a star on the gridiron but tragically passed last year.
Akem and Sona talked about Akem playing football, and for Akem’s senior year of high school, that’s exactly what he’s doing.
“My family really motivates me,” Akem said. “My cousin played Bellarmine football, and before he passed I remember we would always talk about the football team and how everyone was doing and all the people on the team. Ever since recently, it’s always something I always talked about. I figured this year with the new coaches this is what I have to do, and it just pushes me every day to be better.”
Flag football was something Akem competed in since around fifth grade or early middle school, yet tackle football became new to him this season, and he caught on quick.
The coaching staff noticed something in him right from the jump.
“I didn’t really think I could play at the next level until after like the coaches saw me and they were like, ‘Oh, you could really do this.’ They saw my athleticism and just having people like Adam and Nicho just helping me along the way, showing me the ropes,” Akem said.
Despite the times when football kept getting pushed back and California student-athletes were unsure on whether or not they would have a season – the state just released updated guidelines to allow for the safe return of sports like football – Akem never was deterred by the outside adversity.
Bellarmine’s coaches told Akem and his teammates to only focus on what they could control, which is just what Akem has done, working on his speed, strength and honing in on his routes at receiver.
Although all of this is fairly new to Akem, he’s embracing the challenge and succeeding in all aspects – he holds a 3.39 GPA – which he credits to his mother and those around him.
“For me, being a successful student-athlete, I have to give my Mom credit to that because she’s a no nonsense type of person, so academics first and then athletics follow the way,” Akem said. “And also I’d have to give Bellarmine’s culture credit. That really helps a lot too because it’s a really competitive school, so everyone is always trying to be the best regardless of what you’re doing.”
Currently, Chapman, Foothill College, Lincoln, Puget Sound, Redlands and Weber State are expressing interest and/or following Akem on Twitter, according to Bellarmine assistant Brennan Ronald.
Akem, just like his coaches said, is only focusing on what he can control with the recruiting process.
“The recruiting process for me, I’ve just been taking it day by day really,” Akem said. “I feel like if I get noticed, I get noticed. It’s really just God’s plan and just going with the flow. But what I’m looking for in a college I feel like it has to be academically sound first off, and just a community, a place I’m comfortable in, preferably California.”
With his senior season looming, Akem aims for the best out of himself and for some winning ways out of a storied Bellarmine football program.
“I’m trying to be the best version of myself every day, just push myself,” Akem said. “And for the team I’d say the goal is just to have a winning season.”
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