DETROIT — Emil Ekiyor Jr. committed to Michigan’s Class of 2018 last October and is planning on making his official visit on Nov. 25 when the Wolverines host Ohio State. He wouldn’t mind rescheduling that visit, however. Ekiyor would love to be at the Big House that day, but he would love more to be playing for a state championship that weekend.
It is why the game is played, right?
Ekiyor was in Detroit with his Indianapolis Cathedral team to play two-time defending Michigan Division 2 state champs Detroit Martin Luther King on Saturday night at Wayne State University’s Tom Adams Field. The Irish lost, 38-35, while Ekiyor had to watch from the sidelines because of a sprained left ankle. The loss dropped Cathedral to 0-2 on the season after a 35-28 loss at perennial Kentucky state power Louisville St. Xavier in Week 1.
It’s easy to see the power, strength and agility the 6-foot-3, 335-pound Ekiyor possesses, but now the player rated a 4-star prospect and top player in the state of Indiana by the 247Sports composite rankings has to display a leadership quality that’s not measurable. Cathedral’s schedule doesn’t get any easier as it must play at Pickerington Central (Ohio), a team that beat Michigan Division 1 state champ Cass Tech this past weekend. Whether Ekiyor will play in that game remains to be seen, but he has an important role on this team regardless.
“ It’s definitely not letting this get us down this week,” Ekiyor told Land of 10. “Let’s have a great week of practice and prepare the best we can to be ready to compete. It’s getting those guys ready to compete at a high level and knowing that we’re getting better every week by playing this tough competition. That’s something we have to keep in mind.”
Cathedral plays in Indiana’s Class 5A, the second-largest division in the state. All teams make the state playoffs, so playing games against competition the caliber of King should benefit it down the road. Cathedral has won 12 state titles, including five in a row from 2010-14.
After an offseason full of recruiting visits, camps and interviews, Ekiyor has one goal in mind.
“ It’s a very exciting time, just being able to lead my team and try to do something special, and that’s win a state championship,” Ekiyor said. “That’s ultimately the main goal, and now I can completely focus on that. That’s made me a better player. I have more attention to detail and have time to work on my skill.”
Making a father proud
Ekiyor is the highest-rated of the 13 players currently committed to Michigan for 2018. That includes fellow Indianapolis resident Cameron McGrone, a 4-star linebacker from Lawrence North, and offensive tackles Ryan Hayes of Traverse City West and Jalen Mayfield of Grand Rapids Catholic Central. He is a four-year starter for Cathedral, having previously played tackle and guard. Ekiyor is playing center this season.
“He’s a power run game-type of guy, so he fits the kind of blocking schemes that Michigan seems to play,” Cathedral head coach Rick Streiff said. “He’s a big, strong guy, so consequently it’s one of those things where he’ll fit their system, fit their scheme real well.”
Emil Ekiyor Sr. played defensive end at Central Florida and now coaches that position group for Cathedral. It gives him a unique perspective as not just a father but a coach watching his players go up against his son.
“My guys go against him in practice every day and I’ve been able to see his development along the way as a player, and also as a leader on the team,” Ekiyor Sr. said. “As a father, I’m proud of my son, but as a coach I’m impressed how he started as a freshman, played guard and moved to tackle and now is playing center so he’s played all three positions. I’m impressed with how he’s embraced it and gotten better at each position. Being around football your whole life and seeing your son do that, I’m just really proud of how he’s progressed as a player, his football IQ as a whole and how much he’s grown to love football.”
Dad said he tried steering his son away from football at an earlier age, hoping to push him towards basketball. While Emil Jr. says he has a passion for basketball, to the point where he’s done some broadcasting of Indianapolis high school games on the MIC Network, football is his first love.
Alabama pursuing, committed to Michigan
He is committed to Michigan but acknowledged to Land of 10 that he is keeping his options available should the need arise for a second choice. Alabama has been pursuing him, trying to persuade him to take an official visit to Tuscaloosa, but that isn’t in the plans at this point.
“I’m committed to Michigan,” Ekiyor said. “If anything happens down the road, it would be looking as a second option. It’s giving every place a look and making sure I’m making the right decision because ultimately I have to be there for four years.”
Ekiyor said he’s not sure if he will be using the new 72-hour December signing period or waiting until February. That, he said, depends on when he takes his official visit.
Focus on this season
For now, there is one focus. That’s making sure his team is as good as it can be when the playoffs begin.
Cathedral twice trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter against King. Before the Irish were about to go out on the field for offense with just under three minutes to play, Ekiyor got in the ear of sophomore quarterback Roman Purcell. Ekiyor repeatedly patted Purcell on top of the helmet as he spoke.
“I was just reminding him the magnitude of the moment and how he needed to step up, and how we are leaning on him right now, depending on him,” Ekiyor said. “Being a sophomore, I know it’s tough for him with all the pressure but I was just reminding him that he’s the guy and he needs to have confidence in his own abilities.”
Cathedral did score on its final two possessions to keep pressure on King. Even though that proved not to be enough, the experience should help the rest of the season.
“It was tough just knowing that I couldn’t help my teammates,” Ekiyor said. “I was trying to coach them up the best I can and do everything I could to help, but we couldn’t run the ball and we didn’t have that much success on offense even though we scored 35 points. It just sucked having to watch it. I can’t wait to get back and make an impact on the game.”
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