It’s been a long road for Alex Akingbulu, but the end goal is in sight: Making it into the NFL.
The Fresno State offensive lineman broke out with a tremendous 2021 campaign, finishing as a first-team All-Mountain West nominee for his play at right tackle. A former UCLA transfer who suffered an injury that saw him miss both his 2016 and 2017 high school seasons, Akingbulu has had to do his fair share of waiting for his time to shine. However, once given the chance, he proved to be an anchor for the Bulldogs in one of the program’s best seasons in recent memory.
Draft Wire had the chance to speak exclusively with Akingbulu about his journey, his pursuit of a Master’s degree, his work ethic, and more.
JI: You’re enrolled in a Master’s program in Education. Can you speak a bit on the importance of furthering your education?
AA: Especially as student athletes, I feel like we get lost in on-the-field stuff and trying to better our lives and go to the next level, which is the NFL. Obviously, that’s not guaranteed, and the percentages of that is very low, as well. With education, the percentages are high. You control your own destiny in that aspect. Free education, just coming from a Nigerian household, that’s just something I remember my parents just preaching to me every day, to take care of your education. That’s something you could take with you for the rest of your life. I just got blessed and took advantage of COVID, and different situations of grad transferring and just furthering my education.
JI: With your parents being Nigerian immigrants, how did your upbringing help mold you into the person and worker you are today?
AA: Man, it definitely had a big impact. My parents coming from Nigeria here, of course, you come into a different country and continent, first thing you have to do is work hard. They landed here, that’s the first thing they did, and that’s the main thing that they preached is just being able to work hard. In America, there’s definitely a lot of room to grow, and a lot of room to up your status in this economy, so just knowing that your future’s in your hands, and if you work hard enough for it, then everything else will pay off.
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JI: After your NFL career, what do you hope to accomplish in the field of education?
AA: I definitely want to go back to my community. In Los Angeles, obviously, like Carson, California, even back in Nigeria, as well. There’s a lot of places that need more depth on education, and specifically financial literacy, and that’s something that I’m really adamant about. I feel like as a kid, I wasn’t able to get that much information and know what taxes do and how that affects you, and things like that. Just being able to give back to the community and talk to African-American or any children in general that don’t have those skills and don’t know much about financial literacy.
JI: As you’re pursuing your NFL dreams, do you feel your status as a pro athlete will help you out as you try and achieve those goals in your community?
AA: Oh, absolutely. It’s crazy, Because even in smaller things like in college, you see your influence on the younger generation. Going to the league, a bigger microscope is put on you, and I see it in a positive way, just being able to impact others and use that platform to benefit the community.
JI: You finished this year as a first-team All-Mountain West lineman. Between transferring and suffering injuries in high school, what does it mean to end your collegiate career on such a high note?
AA: Man, I think it just goes back to working hard each year, it’s been a long college career. Six years, and I can truly say each year I matured more, developed more, learned my body more. It just kind of peaked off in this last year, setting goals for myself, listening to my coaches, listening to the guys around me; also, accepting the leadership role on the team. I put my all into this season. I can say, this is the most I’ve been focused and driven in my life, and just seeing that at the end, there’s accolades and things went in my favor, it kind of just shows you like, “Okay, if I put my best foot forward, I will get results.” That was the main thing I got from them.
(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
JI: Which offensive linemen have you grown up idolizing?
AA: Growing up in high school, Tyron Smith was the main guy I looked at. I used to watch his high school film, because he was actually a slender guy in high school, and I was too, so just see how he grew from that slimmer guy in high school to being one of the best tackles ever, in my opinion, it’s definitely motivating. Right now, I can say, I’ve kind of shifted to watching Trent Williams a lot. He is the guy to me, and he adds a different element to offensive line, especially tackle play, in the crafty things he does. He has a new element to the game, so I love to watch him play.
JI: Some people have said that Trent Williams is the best flat-out offensive player in all of football.
AA: Yeah, absolutely. He changes a lot in the game. When you don’t have to worry about one side of the field, especially with a lot of great [pass-] rushers in the league, that changes so much.
JI: How do you like to spend your free time outside of football?
AA: Outside of football, I actually like to make music. It’s not necessarily rap – I don’t know if you know Afrobeats, like Wizkid and Burna Boy and stuff like that. To make that type of music, it’s therapeutic. Me and my friends, we just mess around with that and then play video games. Also, I like to watch like podcasts a lot. That’s kind of one thing I’ve really dove into, just listening to different guys, different athletes talk about their experiences, but that’s pretty much it. I stay inside. I really don’t do much, honestly. Just those those few things.
JI: Are you more of a producer or a performer?
AA: My friend produces, and then I sing or rap, depending on the type of a beat. So I write music, and then I sing, as well.
JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?
AA: One thing I can say is, I know now with all the maturity that I have, leadership roles do not necessarily have to come with age. I can bet on me being a vocal leader in any aspect of the team, just coming in and being humble, ready and hungry to learn and work. I’m always trying to better my game and just being taken under anybody’s wing, just pretty much hungry and ready to do anything and set my role. I can play either side and pretty much any position on the line, as well. [I bring] versatility and being able to be hungry.