NORMAL — In December of 2011, Josh Aladenoye was seriously considering leaving the University of Oklahoma football program and received permission from the Sooners to look elsewhere.
But was Illinois State his next stop? Aladenoye wasn’t sure, even after a visit to the Redbirds’ campus and a discussion with head coach Brock Spack.
“At first I told him (Spack) I was going to stay at OU,” Aladenoye said. “He flew down the next day, and we talked for a couple hours. This guy came all the way across the country to see me. The visit definitely was the difference.”
And while Aladenoye has been a 6-foot-6, 325-pound pillar of stability at left tackle the past two seasons, the Mesquite, Texas, native also believes ISU has made a huge difference in his development as a player and a student.
“Coach (George) Barnett and Coach (Dan) Clark have helped me so much become the kind of player I am right now,” said Aladenoye. “Balancing football and education is kind of difficult. Here I had a steady balance of both. I feel like coming here helped me graduate.”
Spack sensed Aladenoye’s apprehension about leaving Oklahoma but also could tell his father Josh (who moved to the United States from Nigeria in the 1980s) and mother Donna Scott wanted the younger Aladenoye to seize the opportunity for playing time ISU had to offer.
“I could tell his parents were really good people,” Spack said. “His parents are hard workers, very impressive people. They wanted him to play and get his college degree.”
The No. 36 offensive tackle prospect in the nation out of high school according to Scout.com, Aladenoye saw action in 16 games as a reserve offensive lineman at Oklahoma. He had been switched to the defensive line before deciding to transfer.
“I like playing defense. It was a lot of fun. I played nose and was pretty good at it,” said Aladenoye. “When I got here I told Coach Spack I wanted to play defensive tackle. He said, ‘No, you’re a left (offensive) tackle. You will make a lot more money playing left tackle.’ I don’t think he has been proven wrong yet.”
Aladenoye, who became a Redbird along with former Sooners’ tailback Jonathon Miller, believes he has received better coaching at ISU than if he would have stayed at Oklahoma.
“It’s not even comparable. The coaches take their time and work with you individually on what you need to work at,” he said. “Then we come together as a collective line. That’s how we all get better.”
Barnett, ISU’s offensive line coach and offensive coordinator, has been impressed with Aladenoye’s drive to improve.
“From day one, Josh has been invested in getting better every day, and that’s exactly what he’s done,” said Barnett. “He’s very intense when it comes to individual drills and very locked in when it comes to practice.
“His sheer size is something they (NFL scouts) like, and the fact he can translate that size into power.”
Aladenoye will graduate in December with a university studies degree that combines business and communications.
“I’m most proud of Josh that he really focused on getting his degree,” Spack said. “A lot of guys would think ‘I’m going to the league (NFL)’ and leave six hours short. He hasn’t done that.”
Spack does not believe Aladenoye will be a left tackle at the next level.
“I think he would be a very good guard in the NFL,” said the ISU coach. “Some people are looking at him as a right tackle. He doesn’t quite have the speed for left tackle.”
Aladenoye pointed to an NFL career as “definitely a goal. I’ve been playing football my whole life. That will come. Everything will work itself out.”
That faith comes partly from his experience at ISU.
“I made a great decision to come here,” he said. “The only regret I have is not coming here out of high school.”