This story originally appeared as a premium article on ScarletReport.com by Garrett Stepien on June 29, 2016, republished with permission from site manager Sam Hellman.
Sandwiched between two of three commitments for the class of 2017 on a wild day of Rutgers recruiting, Olakunle Fatukasi’s afternoon pledge might have flown under the radar for Scarlet Knights fans trying to keep up with the wave of news.
The surging Rutgers recruiting class added a key defensive cog in Fatukasi, who is the No. 1 linebacker in New York and the No. 41 outside linebacker nationally.
But beyond his highlight tape, the ranking and the laundry list of offers to his name, Brooklyn (N.Y.) Grand Street head coach Bruce Eugene offered deeper insight on what the defensive minds of Chris Ash and Jay Niemann get out of Fatukasi.
“They’re getting a smart, hard-working linebacker — a kid that’s a high-character kid,” Eugene said. “You know, first-one-in, last-one-out type of guy — a kid that’s gonna give his all and do whatever he can to be the best.”
With a 6-foot-1, 209-pound build, Fatukasi presents the measurements prototypical for an athletic linebacker in Niemann’s defense as Rutgers combats the growth of spread offenses in the Big Ten.
But Fatukasi’s upside does not stop at his physical intangibles, according to his coach.
“He’s very instinctive — and he’s a striker,” Eugene said. “He’s a kid who knows how to tackle. A lot of times, kids play football but don’t know how to tackle. But he’s a kid who knows how to tackle. Every time you see him, he’s rolling his hips forward and he’s not gonna perch them back. It’s very rarely you get some extra yards versus him.”
“Olakunle verbally commits (Tuesday), it’s big for him,” Eugene said. “He was comfortable, he felt comfortable with the staff and liked what they’re doing and he felt like that’s the right decision for him. So, he’s gonna do some great things there. And the fact that you’re 35-40 minutes away from home, that also helps.”
Eugene called the Scarlet Knights staff “very intense” and “high-motor.” He commends the ongoing culture change as a part of the reason why the decision became so apparent for Fatukasi.
“Every time I’ve been in there, they’re very energetic,” Eugene said of the Rutgers coaches. “The practices are very up-tempo and it’s just different from what you’re used to under the old Rutgers regime. Back then it was more, you know, I felt it was much slower than the pace they’re going now. Everything is, like I said, up-tempo. Everything is competition, competition-based and the kids love it.”
With his recruitment out of the way, Fatukasi told Scout on Tuesday that his plans following his commitment are simple — continue to work hard and work out ahead of his senior season at Grand Street.
The comments came as no surprise to his coach, who described Fatukasi as a born leader.
“That’s the type of kid he is,” Eugene said. “He lives in the gym. He works hard. With him, everything is about making sure the players around him are better. He knows he’s only as good as his weakest link and he’s always making sure the young guys — the guys coming up to varsity — are doing what they need to do. He’s a leader you will want.
“If you had 11 Olakunle’s, you’d be undefeated every year. That’s the type of kid he is and I’m excited he plays for me and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does this upcoming season.”