The NFL Academy, an elite pathway programme which opened in September 2019, is a major initiative by the NFL which aims to use American football to create life-changing opportunities for young people aged 16-19 around the world.
Based at Loughborough’s world-renowned centre of sporting excellence in the U.K., and in partnership with Loughborough College and Loughborough University, the programme combines full-time education with intensive training in the sport, under the guidance of a professional coaching team.
Born and raised in London, with Nigerian heritage, Oke began as a defensive back for the NFL Academy in 2022. Prior to joining the team, Oke had never played American football and was encouraged to pursue the opportunity by his mother, Shola Oke, after she recognised his athletic talents.
Since joining the NFL Academy, Oke has not only learned the sport of American football, but has been extremely successful, earning eight Division 1 U.S. college scholarship offers this year.
“My mum encouraged me to try a new sport that I had no knowledge or experience in, and it has been life changing for me. The NFL Academy and Loughborough College took a chance on me despite having no experience in American football. I have learned so many important lessons on and off the field, and I am lucky to have been tutored by former NFL defensive back Jason Bell, who helped me prepare for every aspect of the game,” said Oke.
“I can’t wait to head to Chicago and represent Northwestern University, the international scene, and the people of the U.K. and Nigeria. I had a great experience when I visited during my recruiting journey and was able to watch the team play against Maryland and experience the incredible atmosphere. The future is very bright for me, and the goal is to be the best defensive back to play the game.”
“This is another proud day for the NFL Academy as Timi commits to a great program and the entire team could not be happier for him,” said Lamonte Winston, head of the NFL Academy. “Timi has worked so hard to learn the game and develop his skills with our coaches and support staff at Loughborough College and is a great credit to the NFL Academy. We wish him well at Northwestern and in the years to come.”
This commitment announcement highlights the ongoing success of the NFL Academy, which currently supports 62 student athletes from 13 different countries (U.K., France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, Belgium, Nigeria, Ireland and Senegal).
Since its inception, more than 40 students have secured college football scholarships in the U.S., with 15 NFL Academy alumni playing NCAA football in the 2023–24 academic year.