Tennessee tight end Emmanuel Okoye. Photo by Ric Butler/RTI
Tennessee tight ends coach Alec Abeln didn’t even have to think about it. Asked about tight end Emmanuel Okoye’s potential, Abeln sparked excitement about the Vols’ freshman.
“He’s got the chance to be the most athletic guy to ever play the position,” Abeln said. “I truly believe that.”
Okoye’s journey to Tennessee is extremely unique. A Nigeria native, Okoye’s sporting past began with basketball. But after scouts from the NFL Global Academy came to his hometown, Okoye’s athletic future pivoted to the football field.
After one year at the NFL Global Academy in London, Okoye set his sights on college football. He came to the United States this summer and visited Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Texas Tech and Southern Cal. Okoye planned on spending one more year in London before coming to college ahead of the 2024 season.
The 6-foot-5, 235-pound prospect committed to Tennessee after his four visits but adjusted his plan, arriving in Knoxville this summer to join the Vols.
“The coaches,” Okoye said of why Tennessee was the place for him. “Coach Heupel gave me his unique vision for me. What he sees me becoming in the future and the way he can build me to become the best player I can possibly become. He’s a really unique coach. The coaching staff, great guys. Coach Alec (Abeln) is one of the best to do the job. Being in such an environment with such coaches is a blessing.”
More From RTI: Watch Tennessee Football Practice Highlights From Thursday
What position Okoye would play was up in the air. His measurables made him a fit at defensive end and tight end. With the Vols’ lack of young tight ends and Okoye’s basketball skillset he decided to start his career on the offensive side of the ball.
Abeln is the immediate beneficiary.
“He is as physically gifted as anyone I’ve ever been around,”Abeln said. “He’s got to continue to make steps everyday but just from a raw athletic standpoint the ceiling is unlimited.”
Having played football for less than two years, becoming an SEC caliber tight end is going to be a work in process for Okoye. It would be shocking if he did anything more than play special teams this season and it may be years before he’s a starting tight end.
But Okoye can achieve a lot playing football. He knows it too.
“There is no ceiling to what I can accomplish,” Okoye said. “I just keep pushing for the most I can get. I just keep getting better as I normally do. Just going higher and I should get to the peak of where I’m supposed to get to.”