Three-star Class of 2024 linebacker Justin Okoronkwo arrived in New York on Wednesday with his sights set on College Park and visiting with Maryland football this weekend.
“We visited Maryland yesterday, and I got an offer from Maryland,” Okoronkwo said. “We will be at the game today against Ohio State. I’m very excited. We got a tour around campus and the facilities were very great. I’m excited to go back today.”
Okoronkwo, who stands at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and ranks as the No. 32 linebacker in his class, was in the United States once before, camping last summer and earning offers from Michigan and Penn State back in June.
“It was life-changing,” Okoronkwo said. “I came to the States like, ‘Okay, let’s try it. It’s my dream.’ And then it just worked out and it was unreal the moment I got my first offer. I was so excited and I couldn’t believe it.”
The Terps’ offer is one that stands out a little above the rest, as Okoronkwo’s trainer is former Central Connecticut State standout Josh Alaeze, a product of Dunbar (Md.) and brother of former five-star Maryland recruit Melvin Alaeze.
“He was born and raised in Baltimore, and his brother was also a big recruit and so he knows Coach Locksley as well,” Okoronkwo said. “And I think it meant very much to him that his athlete got an offer from Maryland. And I was excited to tell him.”
The journey of getting into football as an international prospect is unique as schools in Europe do not field teams for the sport, forcing players to play for clubs. Okoronkwo started as a goalkeeper in soccer at the age of eight and then transitioned to gymnastics from 12-16 prior to taking up football.
“I think the strength of my body as well is perfect for football,” Okoronkwo said. “You must have good body control to do gymnastics, and that’s also in football. It’s the same.”
Okoronkwo was able to take in the first-ever NFL game in Germany last weekend as Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took down the Seattle Seahawks, 21-16. A key part of his trip to America this week, however, was seeing his first college football game, between Maryland and No. 2 Ohio State.
“I’ve been to the NFL game in Germany, in Munich, my hometown, and it [was] very nice, but I think the crowd in America will be way, way more excited because they really love the game. It’s their culture being from the US, so I think it will be crazy,” Okoronkwo said.
Okoronkwo’s vision of the atmosphere was correct, as he watched Maryland keep pace with the No. 2 Buckeyes in a 43-30 loss.
“It was an amazing game!” he said. “I had a great time and I hope to come back soon to watch another game of Maryland’s.”
Recruiting is also a different feel as an international prospect, as Okoronkwo is not in constant communication with coaching staffs like prospects who are stateside.
“When I’m at home, it’s like, just my normal day, going to school, or going to training,” Okoronkwo said. “I don’t really realize how [big the] recruiting process is because most of the time my recruiting organization, PPI, is really working for me and my recruiting process. I’m very thankful for Coach Brandon [Collier], [who] is helping me through all the recruiting process. I mean, without him it wouldn’t be possible.”
Okoronkwo is planning more visits while in the United States, eyeing Penn State and Illinois among other programs over the next week. He is looking for a school that can help him grow as a football player and reach his dreams of playing in the NFL with academics also being an important factor.