The introduction to Freedom began with a freshman football coach. Ozie Stanley walked into a coaches meeting and kept repeating a name over and over, like he'd gone Howard Hughes crazy or something. Freedom Akinmoladun. Freedom Akinmoladun. Freedom Akinmoladun. Freedom Akinmoladun. Andy Leech, head coach at Grandview (Mo.) High School, looked up with the peculiar expression that comes when you have no earthly idea what someone is talking about. He thought old Ozie had lost a screw. "What are you saying?" Leech asked. Leech would soon understand. Everyone at Grandview was about to know about Freedom, the young man with the catchy name, a name that will be put to paper as a Nebraska recruit Wednesday. By his sophomore year, Akinmoladun was playing left tackle for the varsity and already making a case as the team's best lineman. By his junior year, Akinmoladun was asking to get the football in his hands. "So we give him a shot at tight end," Leech said. "He caught everything they threw at him." By then, he was catching the attention of FBS programs around the Midwest, the kind of prospect with the ability to make an impact on either side of the ball -- whether it be tight end or defensive end. Akinmoladun prefers tight end, and that's what he's first considered as he prepares to become a Husker. But it's not lost on him that some think his greatest potential could be on the other side of the ball. "I've been told that a number of times," he said. "The thing I'd say is I'm a team player. If needed somewhere, I do it." Some coaches even make occasional mention of San Francisco 49ers star Aldon Smith, a former Missouri standout, when discussing Akinmoladun. "I think he's an NFL-type D-end myself," Leech said. "His arm reach, he could be a really special defensive end." But ... "He likes tight end. He likes having the ball in his hands." And it's hard to argue with what the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Akinmoladun can do when he gets the ball. "The thing about it that I like is the opportunity to make that big run," Akinmoladun said. "I like to be put under that pressure." By the end of his junior year, scholarship offers began to arrive. From Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas State, Kansas. Akinmoladun kept an open mind, but his family was decidedly biased toward one school. Much of his mother's side of the family is from Nebraska. Big Red blood still flows through their veins. Then there's the fact Akinmoladun was born in Omaha, and has a brother who played football at Nebraska-Kearney and a cousin who's on the Husker track team. Given all that, it only made sense that he took part in Nebraska's Big Red Weekend recruiting extravaganza last June. Akinmoladun liked NU quite a bit. He gave thought to committing then but held off. Leech, who once had a front-row seat when former Grandview quarterback Josh Freeman decommitted from Nebraska in favor of Kansas State, reminded the player it might be the second biggest commitment he'd make outside of marriage. In short, be sure before taking that step. All the while, the man Freedom affectionately calls "Crazy Uncle Carlos" kept working on him to take the step that seemed a foregone conclusion. "He kept telling me, 'You know what college you're going to. I know what college you're going to,'" Akinmoladun said. Freedom fittingly made the call on July 4, his family gathered to relish the moment. Uncle Carlos threw a Husker T-shirt and red beads at his nephew in delight. Most assumed he had committed on Independence Day because of his name, but that was just a fun coincidence. He committed that day because of the woman he admires most. "To be truthful, and I don't think I've told anybody this, it was because it was my mom's birthday, and she's been the one on this earth helping me be who I am," Akinmoladun said. "So I said I wanted to do something for her." Sherryee Akinmoladun, who attended Omaha Benson High School while growing up, was as excited as the rest of the family. As they always do, the family tracked Nebraska's season closely last fall. It was a bit of a roller coaster, of course, and recruits quickly realize they're on that ride right along with the players and coaches. Leech had always preached to his players the importance of stability in a coaching staff when picking a college. As speculation flew about Bo Pelini and his staff, there was momentary pause. "To be honest, we were a little worried throughout the season," Leech said.
Freedom's worth plenty to this Husker class
Lincoln Journal Star | Jan 30