national signing day for nfl academy stars


To be honest we don’t get to cover National Signing Day at The Touchdown usually. However, this year the NFL Academy alerted Boss Man Si that they had athletes committing to major schools in the US.

Wait, what?

Yup, our NFL Academy, in the UK – producing talent which ended up getting multiple offers of scholarships to play D1 football in the US. Wow. This. Is. Awesome.

So, this was my first time covering National Signing Day and I hope it won’t be my last. To hear the stories of these young men was inspirational. But also the sheer joy on their faces from getting a scholarship to follow their dream of playing football at college, and then, hopefully in the NFL was something to behold.

While the Academy had six players signing their National Letters of Intent, I spoke to Daniel Akinkunmi who committed to the Oklahoma Sooners and Lopez Sanusi who will play his football for Boise State. 

From Ireland to Idaho

Photo Credit: NFL Academy

When I meet Lopez Sanusi he has just signed his National Letter to Intent to become a Boise State Bronco and his smile is as wide as the Liffey.

Lopez explains to me that his journey into D1 football in the Mountain West has been a long and winding one. Born in Dublin, Ireland, Lopez and his family moved to Delaware in the US where he went to high school. His travels were not to end there with his family moving back to Nigeria. Despite all that, Lopez stills has a strong Dublin accent which is sure to go down well in Idaho.

The competition just to get into the NFL Academy was fierce, with Lopez grabbing one of only twenty coveted spots at the Academy – out of literally hundreds of candidates.

“It feels surreal” said Lopez about his signing to got to school in Boise”.


“Just from where I’ve come from, what I’ve been through in my life…It’s a blessing to be in the position I am right now”.

And why Boise State?

“Boise State are the ones that stood out for me”, Lopez said about the recruitment process.

Recruitment was clearly a tough process for the Academy athletes who have the disadvantage of being several thousand miles away from coaches and recruiters. Days would be filled with telephone calls to coaches – sometimes 15-20 calls per day Lopez told me.  Then attending camps in the US where the athletes could demonstrate their skillsets and prove they are worthy of a scholarship.

Lopez received other offers but once he had visited Idaho, it was clear the Broncos had won him over.

“the coaches there, the team – they are people that I want to play for….I went there for my visit 2-3 weeks ago and (in a game) they had 35,000 people there. So I think it’s the community there that’s going to motivate me”.

And what of playing on that famous blue field?

“That blue turf is different” said Lopez.


“It’s iconic. You can see it on Google but it’s a whole lot different when you see it in person. So being able to play on it every week is going to be amazing”

Getting back to the US is important for Lopez as he gets to reunite with family, in particular his brother. I asked Lopez what he was most looking forward to when he arrived at school.

“most of all I’m happy to be back in America. My little brother, Denzel is out there and I have other family out there, so they will be able to come to Idaho to watch my games”.

Sanusi is a 3 star defensive lineman per 247 Sports. So what is Boise getting in the 6’3″, 280 pound Dubliner?

“the team is going to get a Dawg. They are going to get a guy who’s going to work his butt off. I’m not going to quit. I’m going to fight for them”.

The obvious assumption is that Boise is just another stop on Lopez’s journey to the NFL. While he doesn’t deny that playing football on a Sunday is the ultimate goal, this young man is grounded. He is taking it one step at a time.

“Right now I’m focusing on my freshman year and becoming a starter – being able to ball out in my first year is my focus right now”.

Which will be music to Boise head coach, Spencer Danielson’s ears.

Listening to the passion and excitement that Lopez talks about the next step in his journey, honestly it’s easy to root for this guy.

We wish him all the best at Boise in Idaho.

Lopez with his family. Image credit: NFL Academy

east London sooner

Photo Credit: NFL Academy

The smile on Daniel Akinkunmi’s face is something to behold. The big man from East London is a happy geezer.

“It feels amazing, I’m over the moon” said Daniel when I asked him what it’s like to be a Sooner.

Unsurprisingly the discussion soon got round to playing football in the SEC.

“Who doesnt know about the SEC” laughed Daniel.


“When you talk about the NCAA, all you hear about is the SEC. It’s the biggest and the baddest and the best competition in College football”.

Which explains in part why Daniel chose to play football in Norman with the Oklahoma Sooners.

” that was another key reason why I came to Oklahoma. I knew I would get to play on the biggest stage and be on national television every single Saturday… be able to go up against these guys every day – it’s amazing. I can’t wait to play in the SEC”.

Daniel is going to be an early enrollee in Oklahoma as he travels to Norman on 4th January. He is well prepared – having already learned the playbook, inside and out.

All of this points to Daniel being a huge success at Oklahoma, But there is also another reason why he is sure to be a hit in Norman. Immediately after declaring his commitment to Oklahoma and signing his National Letter of Intent, the big man flashed the  “Horns Down” sign, which is sure to have the Sooners roaring with approval.

And he’s already playing to the home crowd,

“the Oklahoma fans are the best in the world” said Daniel with what is now his trademark grin.


“I can’t wait to live there, breathe there, dominate and go win a Natty”, which is as impressive a mission statement as you are likely to hear these days. 

At 6’5″, 310 pound this 3-star interior offensive lineman caught the eye of  legendary offensive line coach, Bill Bedenbaugh who recruited Daniel. 

Bedenbaugh, now co-offensive co-ordinator was hired by then head coach, Bob Stoops and comes from the Mike Leach coaching tree. Bedenhaugh was promoted to the co-ordinator position by head coach Brent Venables when Jeff Lebby moved to become head coach of Mississippi State. Of particular importance to Daniel is that Coach Bedenhaugh has a proven track record of developing players for the NFL.

“when me and him (Coach Bedenbaugh) watched film together that was a very big moment and I realised  then that I trust this guy with my whole heart and my whole life to coach me. Like the whole way that he watched film is incredible”.

Aside from being immensely talented it is clear that Daniel has the passion and correct mental attitude to be a fixture for the Oklahoma Sooners. He wants to be a huge success in Norman and win a Natty. I have no doubt that Daniel Akinkunmi has the potential to do all of that in his college career. We wish him well.


NFL Academy is recruiting for the next academic year, if you want to learn more about this life-changing opportunity, click here to find out how to apply

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