LA PORTE, Ind. - Ade Aruna arrived in the United States by way of Nigeria on Sept. 20, 2010 with dreams of playing basketball on the college level.
In his first year of playing organized football, Ade Aruna registered 75 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Coaches from Ball State, Indiana, Illinois, Northwestern and Wisconsin recently visited his school.
After stays in Florida and Alabama, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Aruna has settled in nicely at La Porte (Ind.) La Lumiere.
Oh yeah, and he’s also a football player now.
“Last summer, I was playing AAU and we finished playing and I was taking off my jersey and one of the coaches looked at me and said you have the body frame to play football,” Aruna said. He was living in Birmingham at the time. “He said have you ever played football and I said no I never tried. The coach I was living with at that time said we’re going to try and play football.”
Timing was good because coincidentally a camp at UAB was coming up and Aruna was signed up. He worked out at defensive end and tight end.
“I was taught a lot of things,” Aruna said. “How to do the stance. It was kind of new to me. I watched it on TV, but it was weird to me. I learned a lot at UAB.”
Aruna went on to camp at Auburn twice, Alabama once, Tulane once and Southern Miss hosted a satellite camp near where he was staying. He fell in love and a couple college coaches did as well. Aruna earned scholarship offers from UAB, Southern Miss and Tulane. He committed to the Golden Eagles during the summer but recently reopened the recruiting process with all the growing interest.
Heading into the fall with football on his mind, Aruna was looking for the place that could help meet his needs on the gridiron and in the classroom. He found La Lumiere in Northern Indiana, a thriving college-preparatory school on a beautiful campus that boards over half of its students.
“My main focus is I want to play football,” Aruna explained. “My school in Alabama was strictly basketball. I went to some camps in the summer and many coaches kept telling me we want to see you play high school ball. Even if it’s two or three games, we want to see you wearing those pads and seeing what you can do.”
Aruna learned a lot at college camps this summer as seen here at Auburn.
Schools have now seen Aruna play eight games. He registered 75 tackles, seven sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, one he ran back for a touchdown. La Lumiere finished with its first winning record since 1999, wrapping up the season 5-4. In addition to the schools already recruiting him, Aruna has seen personal interest come from Ball State, Illinois, Indiana, Northwestern and Wisconsin. Each coaching staff recently visited the school to check out Aruna.
“He kept developing and getting better,” La Lumiere head coach Art Walker said. “He’s extremely coachable and we worked on a lot of technique with him this year.”
Aruna still plays basketball as La Lumiere is developing into a national powerhouse. However when he told his family back home about this football thing, it caught everyone by surprise.
“The first time I tell my dad, my daddy was like you were playing basketball, how come you’re suddenly playing football,” Aruna said. “They know the kind of athlete I am. They know I can do everything. My dad was really surprised when he saw my picture in the pads. Everyone was asking me how did you protect yourself? Are you ok? Is everything alright?”
Little did they know, it was the other kids that needed protection when Aruna was on the field.
“It’s his athleticism, it’s his length,” Assistant Headmaster for Academic and Athletic Affairs Kevin Kunst said. He is also the program’s defensive coordinator and spends the most time with Aruna. “He has long arms, he uses them. He’s very strong so he uses them well. If he gets an arm on you, you are going down. He can pull a player down with one arm. That’s something you see a lot. For his size he is incredibly fast.”
Every college coach that’s come in and seen Aruna and watched film with Walker and Kunst are saying the same things.
“Right off the bat it’s sheer athleticism,” Kunst said. “Watching Ade, what he could do for us, he could play offense for us. There were games he kicked for us. He could do a kickoff and drive it through the back of the end zone. He kicked field goals for us in one game when we needed him to. He’s great on special teams. Even if he needed more time to develop in a college program, a college program looks at him and says this guy from day one is anchoring your kickoff coverage, anchoring your punt coverage and getting downfield and making big tackles for you while developing him into what you need for your defensive scheme.”
There were certainly some funny learning experiences for Aruna. He didn’t know how to put the pads on the first day of practice. He still doesn’t really know how to throw a football. His first instinct was to always go after the quarterback only to find out that the signal-caller had given the ball to the running back. Also a good student, Aruna soaked everything up quickly.
“I asked a lot of questions for my coaches,” Aruna said. “I think from there I learned a lot and I grew up a lot in football.”
Aruna does not have any official visits scheduled but plans to make trips soon. If given the opportunity, he is targeting possibly staying in the Midwest for school. He’ll contact his family when he knows what he wants to do.
“I will tell them about the school and my dad will do research on the school,” Aruna said. “It’s a big deal for me to get a good education and get my degree.”
And that was always the plan for Aruna when he came to the United States.