Oladokun’s long journey looks to end with perfect fit at USF
This fall, he spent most of his Saturday afternoons spectating from the sidelines of Raymond James Stadium as USF’s lone quarterback target.
Years before his name and highlights began circulating on recruiting sites, Chris Oladokun spent his Saturdays at Skyway Park in west Tampa representing the same green and gold he has chosen to uphold at the collegiate level.
Oladokun played quarterback for the Town N’ Country Packers. It was the only position he had played his entire life — except a brief stint at safety before his coaches realized his offensive prowess.
Oladokun quickly began to realize his athletic talent, but didn’t want to limit himself to just one sport. Since the age of six, he has excelled as a three-sport athlete.
Standing by his side in the stands was his mother, Jennifer Carter.
“We would run from football field to baseball field, and then baseball to basketball,” Carter said. “His entire life, he never played with toys, it was always some type of ball. He never watched cartoons, it was SportsCenter or some type of sport that was on.”
Consistency was important. He always had sports and he always had the city he grew up in, which made passing up offers from Nebraska, Iowa State and Toledo to stay home and play under USF coach Willie Taggart that much easier.
“He’s always preaching ‘bay made’ and I’ve kind of taken over that too,” Oladokun said of the fourth-year coach, who also grew up in the Bay Area. “I’ve spent my whole life here with people watching me grow up and play. Now they get the chance to see me play at the college level. To me, that’s pretty incredible.”
Even when USF was failing to meet expectations — the Bulls had a 2-10 record the previous season and a 2-4 record when Oladukan committed in October 2014 — the 6-foot-1 commit insisted he was making the right choice.
“I wouldn’t say I second-guessed my decision,” Oladokun said. “When I committed, I knew that was a good spot for me. When there were rumors about Taggart leaving, I was a little uneasy about that. But once I knew he was staying, I knew I had made the right decision.”
But pressure is something Oladokun has learned to thrive under. Before circumstances brought him to Sickles High School, he took over the offense at Alonso High, which was far from a powerhouse.
Carter said he took it as a challenge
“Alonso wasn’t a very strong program, and it was kind of rebuilding,” she said. “Getting in and saying, ‘I want to help bring that team to greatness,’ and feeling within you that you have the confidence to bring this people around and rally together.
“That’s something he did even in high school. That made him not shy away (from USF).”
Oladokun’s personality and leadership were essential in his maturation when his former team and school, which once put him on a pedestal, suddenly turned away when rumors surfaced that he was looking to transfer.
But Oladokun started fresh at a school down the road, moving to Sickles. The only problem was that Sickles was Alonso’s biggest rival.
“Chris has so much personality and people just automatically draw themselves to him,” Carter said. “So, when he went to Sickles, that’s (Alonso’s) rival school. At Alonso, they were almost like ‘we’re not speaking to you anymore.’ But Sickles immediately rallied around him because he has that natural ability to lead people.”
Oladokun took over for the Gryphons, throwing 15 touchdowns to just 3 interceptions, leading his team to an 8-3 record his senior season and a 16-0 win over his former team.
When it came to recruitment, the adversity he had already overcome primed him for one of the biggest decisions in his life to that point.
It didn’t take much convincing, but the magnitude of the decision still weighed on Oladokun’s mind. In the end, it came down to finding the perfect fit.
“People told him, ‘don’t commit so early, it’ll stop other offers,’ but I think when you kind of know something fits, you just pull the trigger,” Carter said. “It was seeing that validation of people that aren’t local that have seen you just on film and see that talent there.
“I think it was exciting for him, but as far as realistically going anywhere other than USF, I didn’t think he would.”
Oladokun comes in as a three-star recruit and the only quarterback in USF’s 2016 class. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t competition waiting for him the moment he steps on campus.
With the emergence of sophomore Quinton Flowers and the lurking presence of sophomore Asiantii Woulard, it looks as if Oladokun’s chances of starting are slim, but when the time comes, Carter said she knows her son will be ready.
“Coming up behind (them) and getting to learn that offense and hopefully be that person that runs out on the field and take the field, that’s exciting for him,” she said. “When he gets in there and it’s his turn, he’s ready; he’s hungry for it.”
When his time comes, words from a former USF great will ring in his ears.
USF’s all-time receiving leader and hometown kid Andre Davis told Oladokun a simple phrase: “There’s nothing better than playing in front of your hometown.”
“In your hometown, when you’re doing well, not only are your teammates rallying around you, the fans are rallying around you,” Oladokun said.
All of the stress, phone calls and visits have shown Oladokun his perfect fit, right in his backyard.
—Follow on Twitter @JacobHoagUSF