GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas -- The athleticism and play-making ability of highly recruited junior defensive back Jeffrey Okudah of Grand Prairie (Texas) South may only be surpassed by his desire to be a better person and student.
Okudah, 6-1, 190 pounds, has scholarship offers from more than 30 schools, including Arkansas, Ohio State, Stanford, Texas A&M and Texas. ESPN rates him the No. 2 safety and No. 10 overall prospect in the nation in the 2017 class.
Grand Prairie South Coach Brent Whitson said Okudah hasn't changed with all the attention from many of the top programs in the nation.
"They're told they're so good," Whitson said. "There's praise heaped on them from people they don't even know, and it's the uncommon kid that handles it well."
Okudah takes academics seriously and it shows with a 3.7 grade-point average.
"Someone is going to have to come at him with a very, very strong academic plan and academic program to secure him," Whitson said. "That part I know."
Okudah's maturity and approach to life are beyond his years.
"I just got it from my family's background coming from an African ethnicity," Okudah said of his parents, who moved to America from Nigeria in the 1990s. "That's one of the things they focus on, just presenting yourself well because he have to make yourself look good in front of other people."
He said his parents come from the Igbo tribe that stresses strong values. Being humble is also a trait his parents emphasize.
"Everything is based around school and how you can honor your family's name," Okudah said. "That means a lot to me. Not many people have the last name Okudah."
Okudah said Thursday that Ohio State is his leader, ahead of Stanford, Florida State and Texas A&M. The Hogs were the latest school to offer and have some work to do to get into contention, but Okudah has expressed interest in visiting Fayetteville.
He plans to major in business and marketing with an eye toward sports marketing. In 2013, U.S. News and World Report named Sam M. Walton College of Business No. 1 for the number of full-time master of business administration graduates employed at graduation. He said that's a plus for Arkansas.
" I want a school I go to to have a plan set out for me if football doesn't work out," he said. "A school that really has a nice network established so getting a job won't be too hard."
Defensive backs Coach Clay Jennings visited Okudah's school the day before Arkansas' game against Texas A&M.
"He hits me up before and after every game asking me how I did," said Okudah, who also communicates with Coach Bret Bielema daily on Twitter.
Arkansas has a couple of connections that are helping increase highly regarded junior linebacker Thomas Johnston's interest in the Hogs.
Johnston, 6-2, 220, 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash, plays for Spanish Fort High School in Alabama and has scholarship offers from eight schools, including Arkansas, Clemson, Iowa, LSU, Louisville and North Carolina State.
Brendt Bedsole, an assistant coach at the school, is good friends with Arkansas defensive line coach Rory Segrest. Dean Peavey, who played defensive back for the Hogs from 1990-1994, is friends with Johnston's father.
"He played at Arkansas and they were best friends growing up," Johnston said. "When I got the offer he got really excited about it and he wanted to go check them out again. He said he wanted to ride up there with us."
Johnston had 143 tackles, 3 sacks, 18 tackles for loss and 2 forced fumbles as a sophomore. He plans to visit Fayetteville this fall.
He said Segrest stays in touch with direct messages through Twitter.
"He DMs me every once in awhile and wishes me good luck every Friday," Johnston said.
Johnston, who has a 550-pound squat and plays catcher and pitcher for the school's baseball team, also has received baseball scholarship offers from Southern Miss and South Alabama.
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Sports on 10/04/2015