By Max Goodwin
Football has provided an abundance of opportunity for the Akinmoladun family, and it was Olukayode who forged the path. It began with those walks to school through the streets of Grandview in all kinds of weather that he remembers today.
He started playing football at High Grove Elementary as a Dolphin, and later played offensive and defensive line for the Grandview Bulldogs from 2005 to 2009. Some of his teammates, like Josh Freeman and Xavier Williams, would go on to have NFL careers. Their jerseys now hang on the wall at Grandview City Hall.
Football scholarships helped Olukayode get his associate’s degree in 2011, his bachelor’s degree in 2015, and while playing professional indoor football in Omaha he earned his master’s degree in organizational leadership from Bellevue University in 2021.
“I did my papers after practice, before practice, and made sure I just got it done because I didn’t want to look back in life and think I could have done that,” Olukayode said.
His mother, Sherryee Akinmoladun, said Olukayode set the bar for his younger brothers, who have their own accomplishments.
One, named Freedom, now plays defensive end with the New York Jets practice team. The youngest, Justice, is currently at Washburn University on a dual-scholarship for football and track.
Family was always what mattered most, said Sherryee. “I look at it in amazement at how each one of them took care of each other. I say I am the soil they grew from, but they are the ones who pushed themselves and made them who they are.”
After graduating, Olukayode searched for an opportunity to continue playing.
“Football has always been a dream to play,” he said, “but you never know after you get done with college, am I done yet?”
In 2017 he landed on the offensive line of the Omaha Beef, an indoor football team, where he has now played five seasons. This past year was the highlight of his career when the Beef won a championship.
The Grandview Board of Alderman reserved time during its January 11 meeting for a proclamation honoring Olukayode for his role in winning the Champions Indoor Football league.
Olukayode said it was an awesome feeling to be honored in his hometown, where the Akinmoladun family continues to build strong ties (three generations, including his mother, have taken Citizens Academy classes there).
After being honored by the Grandview Board of Aldermen, Olukayode stood in the mayor’s office and talked about what the night meant to him. There were times he thought about quitting football and he made many sacrifices, including spending less time with his family than he would have liked. But now his signed jersey hangs alongside others on the City Hall’s wall of great Grandview athletes.
What would he say to young kids who love football and hope to follow his path?
“Never doubt yourself. Give yourself the opportunity to get better. Always listen to your coaches,” Olukayode said. “Also, don’t look at what others do on the field. Look at what you need to do to get the opportunity to win.”
Olukayode wore his championship ring with his championship trophy between his feet as he spoke. By coincidence he stood before a bookshelf in the mayor’s office with a sign that read “Follow your dreams.” Olukayode laughed at the unintended meaning when the sign was pointed out to him.
There’s a reason he loves this sport. It’s not just the thrill of playing the game, but the way it has brought his family together. During player introductions at each home game in Omaha, Olukayode walks out of the tunnel with his young daughter. It’s something he cherishes.
He and his wife Megan have a new baby on the way. He plans to play at least long enough for that child to be able to walk out for a home game entrance as well.
“As long as that love is still in your heart, you keep on playing,” he said.
His mother, Sherryee, was in Omaha when Olukayode won the championship. He has amazed her, she said, from following his football dreams to earning a master’s degree to starting a family. All of it.
“Your kids keep growing. They keep growing, they keep doing amazing things,” Sherryee said. “Don’t give up on them, because they’re going to turn around and make you so proud.”