Adebayo Oladapo has a hard time choosing between Italy and Nigeria when it comes to international soccer. The Ichabods junior defensive lineman was born in Nigeria but said Italy feels more like home.
“It’s where I had my childhood,” he said of Parma, a north central Italian city slightly bigger than Topeka.
From Nigeria to Italy and then to the United States with a stop in St. Louis, Oladapo now finds himself at Washburn in his third year playing football and looking to graduate with a sports management degree and a job in sports. He is sure to take the field Saturday, Nov. 10, as the Ichabods face Emporia State University at 1 p.m. at Yager Stadium at Moore Bowl.
Oladapo was five when his father moved his family from Ibadan, Nigeria, a city of over two million people, to Italy looking for better opportunities. Bayo, as family and friends call him, and his two sisters quickly had to learn Italian after first learning to speak Yoruba, one of the hundreds of languages spoken in Nigeria.
“Everyone spoke it, so I had to learn one way or another,” Oladapo said. At five years old, he said it was pretty easy to pick up Italian as he entered preschool and then grade school.
Oladapo became a United States citizen in 2010. Today, after living nearly half of his life in America, he still knows four languages. In addition to English, he still understands some Yoruba, his first language, and uses it when he talks to family in Nigeria. He also remembers Italian and his mother, who is Muslim, taught him some Arabic as a child.
He played soccer, basketball and volleyball in Italy and made many friends, some of whom he keeps in contact with on Facebook and hopes to visit soon. The closest thing to football in his town was rugby, but Oladapo preferred soccer above all sports.
After a few years in Italy, Oladapo’s father wanted even better opportunities for his children. His father believed the diversity of America and the endless opportunities would be the best situation for his family. After the three children were reunited with their father in St. Louis, he pushed his three children to find out what they’re good at, excel at it and then use those skills to get a college scholarship.
“He knew that a scholarship would be the easiest way,” Oladapo said. “Both my sisters got scholarships, too.”
He played soccer in middle school and considered himself to be very fast and slim. But by eighth grade he had grown to 6’2” and 220 pounds, too big to be competitive in soccer. By the time he was in high school he was playing football.
Fast forward to today, age 22, and Oladapo is using the skills his father pushed him to develop as one of Washburn’s starting defensive ends. In his three years at Washburn, Oladapo has been very productive with three interceptions, 54 tackles and five sacks.
Adapted from "Gameday," prodcued by Washburn Sports Information.