Nigerian-born DE Ade Aruna’s tough journey to join Vikings

By Daily Sports on April 30, 2018

Views: 391

Every player has a story of what brought him to the NFL, but the story of

Minnesota Vikings sixth-round defensive end Ade Aruna from Tulane is one that is hard to imagine, much less live through.

A talented basketball player, Aruna was told he had a future in the game, but he lived in Nigeria and, in order to make that happen, he would have to come to the United States by himself, leaving is family behind.

In 2010, at the age of 16, he came to America with a dream of helping to support his family and make them proud. His journey was fraught with peril – three schools in three years, at times horrible living conditions and at times never knowing if he would stay in the country. But, he had a dream and was driven to see it come to fruition.

“It was really tough situation for me,” Aruna said. “I wanted to do something since I was born. My father put a lot of responsibility on me as the fourth child of the house and I wanted to do something that I’m going to be proud of for the rest of life. The chance to come to America was my decision. My parents didn’t have anything to do with it. They just blessed me or wished me good luck. I came in just to do something for my family and bring joy to my country and my family.”

The problem was, while he was well-versed in how basketball was played, he had more natural ability terrorising quarterbacks as a pass-rushing defensive end. At times, he was almost unblockable. He kept his new avocation a secret from his parents, fearing they would take a hard stance toward a game deemed as too violent for some.

While Aruna was blessed with athletic talents most players could only dream of, he didn’t start playing organised football until his senior year of high school and it was a learning experience done on the fly.

“Mostly, I didn’t really know what’s going on the field,” Aruna said. “But I had my teammates that I was playing with that year. They would literally tell me which is my gap and where to go to. Sometimes I’d kind of freelance. My coaches would tell me, ‘Just pass rush every time. Don’t worry about anything else. Just line up at the 5-technique and just pass rush every time.’ I didn’t really know what was going on. I was just out there figuring out, running, just whatever I can do for the team. It was difficult. Before I put on pads, I didn’t even know how to do it. I had to go to my teammates. They kind of literally put everything on my body and strapped it up.”

He went on to become a three-year starter at Tulane and excelled his first two seasons as a hard-charging defensive end. But, when his senior year came along, his football world took on a much different and painful turn.

He had come to master playing his position in a 4-3 defense. But Tulane shook up its defense by switching to a 3-4 and Aruna became like a fish out of water. He was confused at what he was seeing and what his new assignments were. He stuck it out as a good teammate, but he was miserable much of the year because the new scheme took away many of the things he did best.

“I’m a pass rush guy,” Aruna said. “Was the 3-4 good for me? No, it wasn’t good for me. I wanted to be a 4-3 guy. I want to rush from the end. I want to play pass rush. I want to do all that. Due to what was happening at that time at my school, we lost a lot of guys my redshirt junior year and come the last year for me, they had to switch up the scheme so we can be able to play the small body guys that we had. We had to do whatever we needed to. It was my last year and I was looking forward to going to a bowl game. And if you look at my body type and everything I’ve done over the years I think a 4-3 is the best for me. But it was a team game and I wanted to be there for my team.”

The scheme change made it appear that Aruna had regressed, but he was just in a scheme that didn’t fit his skill set. That will change with the Vikings.

Not only does he come to a team that sees many of the same traits that

Danielle Hunter brought to the defensive front, in the offseason, he was trained by former Vikings great Keith Millard, who knows a little something about dominating in a 4-3 defense.

“He was one of the best to do it and I got a chance to work with him in January when I got to California to train,” Aruna said. “He was everything I wanted in a coach when it comes to D-Line and pass rush. He taught me mostly everything I needed to know. It was a great opportunity for me to work with somebody like him that kind of knows what it is to play D-line and be a pass rush specialist.”

With his football dream in sight, Aruna is hoping to find a niche in the Vikings defense, which would fulfill one of his dreams.

But he also hopes to accomplish another dream – having his parents watch him play football for the first time. The only time he has spent with his parents in the last seven years was when they came to Tulane to see him graduate from college. It would complete his long, winding journey to see him playing the game he loves at the highest level in the NFL.

“They have never seen me play football,” Aruna said. “Now that I’ve got the opportunity to play at the next level, hopefully one day very soon I will bring them back and they can watch me play.”

If his goal was to make his family proud by coming to the United States to pursue a dream, in many ways, Aruna’s mission has already been accomplished. (247sports)

•Photo shows Nigerian-born Ade Aruna in NFL action

Source Daily Sports

Posted April 30, 2018

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