PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Some football prospects dreaming of playing on Saturdays and beyond have bigger obstacles to overcome than others. For some it’s a matter of size or ability, others academic concerns, others exposure. For Eli Ankou, his obstacle is the Canadian border and everything that border entails.
Eli Ankou stood out in San Antonio before also starring in Piscataway.
Ankou ia 6-3 and 250 pounds. He’s got a great frame with tremendous strength and athleticism. When he walks onto the football field, he immediately stands out. The only problem is that very few college coaches have been able to witness that presence. He plays in obscurity at St. Peter High School in Ottawa in the Canadian province of Ontario.
But Ankou isn’t taking that anonymity sitting down. He was one of the top performers at the US Army Combine in San Antonio in January and last weekend he was one of the top performers at the Badger Elite Lineman Camp on the campus of Rutgers. His performance this past weekend earned him an invitation to the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl.
Slowly, Ankou is emerging from his obscurity.
“You have to do everything you can,” Ankou said following his performance at Rutgers. “It’s really hard coming from Canada. It’s really isolated from all of the American schools so you have to really do your best to get your name out there.”
But distance and isolation aren’t the only factors that Ankou has to overcome. Ankou plays against a low level of competition and the coaching he receives is minimal at best. In fact, most of what he has learned is self-taught.
“Most of what I learned on the D-line, I learned myself,” he said. “I watch film, watch tendencies and whatnot. Back home in Canada, it’s more strategic. Even though it’s less advanced, it’s more strategic so you don’t really have a defensive end coach or a defensive line coach. It’ll be a coach but not too much experience. You really have to hold your own.”
Ankou has taken that self-dependence in stride.
“Something that my coach said is that struggle builds character. If I did that on my own, I feel like I can tell myself that I did that on my own. But having a coach would not hurt. Having someone that has experience that knows what he’s talking about would be good.”
That lack of polish also leads to the inevitable question, ‘if he is this good without a coach, just how special can this kid be?’
Certainly his obstacles have not hindered his performances this offseason. Ankou has shown fantastic strength and athleticism, a great motor and even some intangibles that are rarely demonstrated on the camp circuit like leadership and enthusiasm. Raw or not, Ankou has been dominating.
On top of all of that, the physically imposing prospect has only one year of weight training under his belt.
Though he doesn’t yet have any offers, Ankou does have interest from Texas A&M, Iowa, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Akron.
“Anywhere in the North would be good,” he said of his school preference. “I really don’t mind the school as long as the academics are good. I don’t want to get out of college and you’re stuck with nothing but football.”
Another development that may help with his exposure is a potential transfer to the states for his senior season. Red Lion Christian Academy is a potential home for Ankou. The Bear, DE school produced Auburn signee Angelo Blackson of the class of 2011 and has elite 2013 prospect Kenny Bigelow returning on the defensive for the 2011 season.
Though he has had a strong offseason thus far, the defensive end is far from done. Next week he will be at the Badger 7on7 at Rutgers as a linebacker. He also plans to attend several other college camps this spring and summer.