When Arnold Ebiketie got a call from Falcons’ GM Terry Fontenot on d`raft night, it was the culmination of everything he had been through to reach this point in his life. Born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Ebiketie’s first love was football, the most popular sport in the West-Central African country.
When Ebiketie’s parents, Jean Marie Ebiketie and Guy Susanne, moved him and his three siblings to the United States at age 13, there was no familiarity with American football. While attending Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland, Ebiketie found that soccer was one of the least popular sports at his school. He later exposed him to football, unaware that seven years later he would be called up to the NFL.
“To go to school with everyone else, there were more basketball and football players,” Ebiketie said. “I wanted to be competitive and bond with the other guys and that’s why I made the switch. First I started with basketball and then I switched to football.”
Being a late bloomer in the sport hasn’t stopped Ebiketie from standing out among guys who have played soccer all their lives. As a naturally competitive and athletic person, traits his father instilled in him made Ebiketie’s transition to the United States smoother. Building those connections with athletes through basketball and football made it easier to adapt to this new environment.
In his three years with Albert Einstein, he played both wide receiver and linebacker, earning co-Defensive Player of the Year and First-team All-Sentinel honors during his senior campaign. He collected 298 receiving yards, three touchdowns, 36 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks.
As those statistics make clear, football came naturally to the native Cameroonian. His father had developed a love for football while he was still in high school, but his mother didn’t really take it seriously until the scholarship offers started pouring in.
“She started seeing the accolades I got and then she went back and started learning the game and now it’s incredible for my whole family considering I was able to inspire them,” Ebiketie said.
Ebiketie would later take his talents to Temple University, as a defensive target. He led Temple in tackles for losses, forced fumbles and sacks. In a game against South Florida, Ebiketie set a single-game record in tackles for losses and tied for first place in the conference for forced fumbles at the end of that season. In his three seasons with Temple, he realized he had accomplished everything he had planned for himself, but he knew there was still a challenge to take on.
“As a footballer I was looking for challenges and ways to get better,” said Ebiketie. “I was excited to go to a program like Penn State, the place where you would improve as a football player and also learn how to become a professional in the sport. That was the main reason why I wanted to make that switch and Looking back, I think it’s the best decision I’ve made.”
As a redshirt senior at Penn State, Ebiketie totaled 62 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and was honored twice as the Nittany Lions’ defensive player of the week coaching staff.
After a successful college term, Ebiketie was ready to fulfill his dream of playing professional football at the highest level.
When draft evening finally arrived, Ebiketie’s was surrounded by family in the comfort of his living room. He knew the call would come at any moment.
“You’re getting a little nervous,” Ebiketie said. “When I looked at my phone it said Atlanta, Ga., and I picked it up and spoke to the GM, head coach and owner. It didn’t really sink in until I spoke to them, and all the emotions just came out.”
“It definitely makes it more special when you step back and look at the journey,” Ebiketie said. “There were highs and lows, but I feel like I’ve learned so much along the way through adversity. It’s brought me to where I am now by learning from the mistakes I made then and just being able to overcome them.” improve and recover.”
As Ebiketie gears up for his NFL debut in a few weeks, using the same ruthless mentality he instilled in him early on is what he plans to bring to this Falcons franchise.
“Having the will to get it done,” Ebiketie said, “that’s what motivates me every time I go out.”