Chidi Okonya has balance of academics and athletic ability

Since spring, Riverdale rising junior defensive linemen Chidi Okonya has been drawing offers from colleges, including Georgia. (Staff Photos: Derrick Mahone)

Since spring, Riverdale rising junior defensive linemen Chidi Okonya has been drawing offers from colleges, including Georgia. (Staff Photos: Derrick Mahone)

Riverale rising junior Chidi Okonya has become a hot recruiting prospect.

He has offers from several SEC, ACC and Big Ten Conference schools. What makes the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder attractive to colleges is his athletic potential and academic prowess.

Okonya sports a 4.0 grade-point average while taking mostly Advance Placement courses. His first college offer came from ACC runner-up Duke, one of the top academic institutions in the country.

In addition to Duke, Okonya has offers from Georgia, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, Clemson, Ole Miss, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Tennessee and Marshall. Okonya’s older brother, Chinedu, is an incoming freshman at Furman.

In addition to football, Okonya played for the Riverdale basketball team that reached the Class AAAA playoffs. He has also accepted an invitation to the Rising Seniors Game, which showcase the talents of the juniors in an all-star game at Grady Stadium in December.

After a recent summer morning workout, Okonya spoke with Clayton News Daily sports editor Derrick Mahone about his recruitment.

What was the feeling like getting your first college football offer?: “My first offer was from Duke, and that was a very special moment for me and my family. This just showed me that my hard work on the field, weight room and classroom has paid off. Duke is huge because of the academics the school has to offer. I couldn’t really say much when the coach offered me. I was really just speechless.”

What does it mean getting that first offer from Duke?: “It really has opened doors for me. You have to look at the academic opportunities that a degree from Duke will do for you. That offer from Duke has really given me confidence in myself and my abilities. I was really trying to take everything in stride. It is extremely special to have that Duke offer. It is among the top schools like Stanford and Vanderbilt.”

How hard is it to balance the academics and sports?: “It is not that hard. It is kind of normal for me because I understand the importance of getting your books. I try to surround myself with other people that share my academic vision with hopes of it rubbing off on me. You just have to complete every assignment. I have to do work for this summer for my AP English and Chemistry class. You just have to balance your time and make sure your assignments get done.”

What was it like getting that offer from Georgia on your visit to Athens?: “That was something really special. It was really huge for me. I didn’t really think I was going to get an offer while I was up there. It is one moment that I will never forget. (Georgia assistant coach) Tracy Rocker informed me that I was going to get an offer. I met with coach (Mark) Richt and he said they were offering. I couldn’t really say anything. After he offered, my dad and coach talked for about 15 minutes.”

Was it disappointing that Georgia Tech didn’t offer on your visit?: “Not really. It was my first visit to a school, so I really didn’t know what to expect. It is just a blessing to have schools interested in you.”

Will you be an early commitment, or will take it down to the wire?: “The plan right now is to commit after my junior season is over. I want to get it over, and concentrate on my senior year as far as school and football. I have my mind set, but with recruiting, any thing can change.”

What are you looking for in a college?: “I want one that offers a quality education, football program and good facilities. I’m looking for a coaching staff that I can build a good relationship with. I will also look at the student-to-teacher ratio. I have to feel like I can fit in well at the college life on campus.”