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June 14, 2011

AU camp starts Aruna down path towards football

Auburn's first summer mini camp Sunday attracted hundreds of sophomore, junior, and senior prospects from across the southeast and nation.

Many prospects came hoping to earn an Auburn offer with their performance, many came to simply try and get better as they prepare for their high school football seasons next fall. Every so often though, a camp attracts an unknown player that leaves everyone, including coaches, intrigued by what could be.

That was the case on Sunday, as 2013 defensive end prospect Ade Aruna attended his second football camp of his life in Auburn.

The 6-foot-5, 224-pound athlete has never played a down of football, and prior to Sunday, had only attended a football camp at UAB days earlier.

Aruna did enough Sunday though to impress Auburn defensive coordinator Ted Roof, who kept a close eye on Aruna.

"It was difficult for me because the fundamentals are new to me. I tried to catch on to everything, listened all the time. I liked it, I want to play football," Aruna said.

What makes Aruna unique is not that he is just picking up football, but the fact that until September of last fall, was living in Nigeria with his birth parents playing soccer, basketball, and practicing Judo.

Football was the last thing on his mind, and it makes Aruna's journey to this point a fascinating one.

Aruna made the life changing move to the United States last fall to get an education. Aruna also began playing basketball for West Oaks Academy in Orlando, Florida, and excelling.

Aruna was playing in a game against Central Park Christian High School last fall, going up against Auburn signees Willy Kouassi and Bernard Morena. Aruna and his teammates lost the game, but not before Aruna put up around 20 points and 15 rebounds against the two future Tigers according to his coach.

That is when Aruna caught the eye of Central Park coach Darrion Knox.

A relationship with Knox, Kouassi, and Morena was sparked, and Aruna made the move to Birmingham in January to play for Central Park. Aruna and Kouassi share similar backgrounds and are now best friends speaking daily.

In fact, Kouassi and Morena were on hand Sunday supporting Aruna during the camp, an act that Aruna said gave him confidence throughout the day.

That brings us to Sunday, where the Auburn camp was the first stop of many for Aruna on the road to becoming a football player.

"I just want to play football right now," said Aruna. "I have a good time playing basketball, but I want to play football. I want to play both, but I want to give football a try. I will keep on getting better as a defensive end. The fundamentals, everything, I want to keep playing football."

Aruna ran a 4.9 40 yard dash and recorded a vertical of 31 inches during his first big time football audition. Coach Roof was so intrigued by Aruna that when it was Aruna's turn for his vertical test, Roof made the walk across the entire field to personally watch Aruna.

As for Aruna's potential as a football player, coach Knox and Ade spent some time with coach Roof after the camp, where the feedback was positive as to Aruna's potential down the road.

"As far as an athlete, coach Roof said he was the best athlete in the camp," Knox said. "He said the kid has a shot to be special. He said Auburn will stay in contact, and of course Auburn is his favorite because of Willy and Bernard. I think he's leaning towards football, coach Roof thinks he can be special.

"I think coach Roof is a straight shooter type guy."

One aspect of Aruna's potential is the fact that he already stands 6-feet-5, and his birth father is 6-feet-8, meaning Aruna is likely not done growing. Another factor in Aruna's favor is his aggressive attitude on the basketball court that should carry over to the football field.

"He's ferocious," Knox said. "Coach Roof told me he's already mean."

Off the field, Knox said Aruna has it all, carrying a 3.5 GPA and being what Knox described as a "very respectful" kid. Knox said Aruna's plan is to get his degree, but continue to play basketball and football, and have his education to fall back on.

For now, only one thing is holding Aruna back from his dreams of being a football player, and that is a football program.

Central Park does not have a football program, so for Aruna to reach his goals he will have to make the transition to another school where he plans to play both basketball and football, with football being his primary choice.

According to Knox though, the plan is for Aruna to stay within a few hours of Auburn. Staying close to his best friends Kouassi and Morena, and where Aruna would likely follow given the chance in basketball or football two years down the road.

For Knox, the thinking is simple in regards to Aruna and his future.

"We have to do what's best for him."


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