Adeniji's journey from walk-on to starter

2009-09-02T21:45:00Z Adeniji's journey from walk-on to starterBy Cliff Kirkpatrick, Gazette-Times Reporter Corvallis Gazette Times

Damola Adeniji is the projected starting split end for the Oregon State football team in Saturday's season opener.

That's a pretty good accomplishment for a walk-on.

It's even better when you consider the senior almost didn't go to college after graduating from South Eugene High.

Adeniji was the secondary receiver in high school behind highly touted Matt Bramow, who went on to play for Oregon. Adeniji wasn't able to showcase his skills with Bramow getting all the attention.

"I scored three touchdowns my senior year, and didn't get many looks," Adeniji said. "After I graduated, I thought football was over. I didn't even know if I was going to school or not."

During the summer, a friend enrolled at Orange Coast College in the Los Angeles area. Once comfortable there, he convinced Adeniji to follow him and try out for the football team.

Adeniji was in Hawaii on vacation with family when he received that call. Six days later Adeniji was running routes with the team, getting back in the swing of the game.

It took time to earn his way on the field as a backup the first three games. When his opportunity came, he ran with it.

He became a two-time all-Mission Conference receiver and was the MVP of the 2005 Diablo Bowl.

He received letters from Pacific-10 Conference schools marginally interested in his services, so nothing materialized. Scholarship offers came from small colleges back east, but he wanted to be closer to home.

Adeniji called Lee Hull, OSU's receivers coach at the time. After learning about Adeniji, the Beavers extended an offer to walk on.

He took a chance with nothing else going.

"It has definitely paid off," Adeniji said. "It's probably one of the longer roads to take. But I'm not disappointed with any of the decisions I made. I worked my whole football career for this year. It's time to shine, time to see what I can do."

Adeniji redshirted in 2007, and played special teams last season, with limited opportunities as a receiver.

He practiced well throughout his time at OSU, and was on the verge of playing an important role. However, it never happened for one reason or another.

"Consistency of both production and assignment," coach Mike Riley said of what kept him off the field. "And that's for a lot of football players. But those are the keys of getting him over the hump. That's one of the biggest difference makers for getting on the field - consistency of doing it right."

Has he gotten over the hump?

"Oh, yes," Riley said.

Adeniji caught one pass for a 39-yard touchdown from Sean Canfield in the blowout over Washington State last year, and blocked a punt and recovered it for another touchdown in the same game.

He continued to develop in the offseason, and played well during the spring and training camp to become the backup to Darrell Catchings.

"I love throwing to Damola," Canfield said. "He's a big target at 6-foot-4. He can get up and get the ball. He has great hands."

When Catchings went down with a wrist injury during camp, Adeniji moved to the top of the depth chart. He fended off true freshman Markus Wheaton and redshirt freshman Geno Munoz.

Catchings is expected to miss the first two or three games this season. Until then Adeniji and Munoz will split time at split end.

"I feel great about that," Riley said of Adeniji starting. "He had a great camp. It's his best football yet. I'm so proud of that guy. He has done nothing but work since he got here. He has persevered."

As for Adeniji, he tries to remain calm about the season.

He took the road less traveled. Reaching the destination was worth the journey.

"I'm a little nervous because it's been a while since I've been in the swing of a game and knowing the flow and speed of the game," Adeniji said. "But not too nervous. I'm ready. I'm prepared. I did everything how I needed to. I'm here and have no regrets."

Copyright 2015 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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