NFL veteran.

Akin Ayodele has come a long way from the young boy who grew up in Irving in the 90s. As a teenager trying to find his place in the world, Akin’s sights were set on building a future for himself and for his family. It wasn’t until he came across an article in Sports Illustrated about college scholarships that his path became clear.

“I knew college would be the vessel,” he remembers. “Something told me that if I could just get to college, the resources and the teaching would be there for me. If I was ever going to change the trajectory of my family, this was it.”

Akin saw college as his way forward into a world beyond where he was – and the way there, for him, was football. Having never played organized football, a young 5′ 6″ freshman introduced himself to Coach Ray Overton, the MacArthur head football coach, asking for a shot on the field.

It didn’t come easy, and his struggles with dyslexia brought even more challenges to overcome as a student-athlete. However, four years later, the kid they once called “Stone Hands” landed a spot at Purdue University.

When asked about his college days, one would think his first response would be about playing time. But for Akin, it was his experience as a student that he beams about the most. “I really enjoyed it,” he explains. “It was almost as if I was a late bloomer, and the lights were turned off. Then I finally turned on the lights, and I could see everything. There were new doors and new rooms that I discovered in my mind and in myself.”

After a successful collegiate career and a nine-year stint in the NFL, Akin returned to academia to obtain his MBA. Now years later, Akin is still reaching for more, but no matter how far he gets, he’s still looking back. “My roots are here,” he says. It’s clear Irving and MacArthur High School have his heart. For that, he makes time to give back to the place he says gave him so much.

One way he gives back is through the Michael Tilmon Scholarship, which he founded and named after his late friend and former MacArthur classmate. Akin lost Michael during their senior year of high school in a tragic car accident that Akin himself also suffered injuries from. Now the scholarship honors seniors at MacArthur who see college as their one-way ticket to success – just like Akin.