By RYAN MCCRACKEN on September 16, 2020.
A promising future is knocking on Elic Ayomanor’s door.
The 17-year-old wide receiver made the decision to move from Medicine Hat to New Jersey in order to further his football career last year. After a strong season at Peddie School – both in the classroom and on the gridiron – Ayomanor has been turning heads at some of America’s most prestigious universities.
“It’s all due to hard work and all that, but when everything goes the way it was planned it feels great. It feels like what you put in is really worth it,” said Ayomanor, who has received offers from three Ivy League schools in Dartmouth, Princeton and Yale.
“I plan on going to a school that has great education as well as great football. If the whole football thing doesn’t go as far as I plan to go, I can still fall back on my education. They say with the Ivy League that it’s a 40-year decision and not a four-year decision.”
Ayomanor helped the Peddie Falcons go 9-0 last season before head coach Chris Malleo opted to step down from his role. Ayomanor has since made the move to another competitive program in Deerfield Academy for his junior year – a Massachusetts-based prep school where he’s surrounded by a number of other highly touted prospects.
“We have a really good program here as well. We have another receiver coming in and then our receiver that was already here has committed to Northwestern University, which is another high academic school but also has a great football program,” he said. “Our quarterback at Deerfield has like 13 offers right now, he’s going into his senior season and he hasn’t committed yet. We’re looking to have a pretty good program this year.”
Ayomanor says everything is a little different this year as a result of COVID-19, but an on-campus tester has allowed Deerfield to create somewhat of a bubble. Upon arrival to the campus, students are tested and quarantined for a few days as they await the results. After the quarantining period, classes and practices can resume almost as normal.
“We’re going to have to wear masks and everything like that,” he said. “We’re planning to have a season, just starting a little bit later in the beginning of October, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Ayomanor’s career is already on a promising upward trajectory, from Ivy League offers to proven gains on the gridiron. When the 6-foot-3, 210-pound receiver opted to make the move down south, his 40-yard dash was sitting at 4.55. Over the past year – which included some time back in Medicine Hat training through Bulldogs Track and Field Club coach Sean Freeman – he’s shaved that number down to 4.48 to help catch the glances of NCAA scouts.
“We worked for a little bit on the track to get my speed a little bit faster and it definitely helped a lot,” Ayomanor said of his 40-yard dash. “I’m always in the weight room trying to get stronger and more explosive.”
That dedication is one thing that separates Ayomanor from the pack, says Freeman.
“He’s always been a pretty dedicated kid. There aren’t too many that I’ve met, I think the only one I knew who was probably as dedicated, maybe a little bit more, was Sage Watson,” said Freeman. “He’s the No. 1 male sprinter in the history of Medicine Hat, but he doesn’t come across that way. We knew there were always people better three hours down the road or across the country, wherever, but are you willing to work, to compete? He never had any problem with that.”
Ayomanor still competes as a track athlete in the U.S. and doesn’t plan on stopping – though the 2020 season was cancelled due to the pandemic – but football is his passion and where he hopes to take his future. With that in mind, Ayomanor says Freeman crafted a track program around his needs as a receiver, and it’s led to impressive results.
“He might be training you track, but you’re a football player so he’s going to keep that in mind and try to format the program so that you’re not just improving track,” said Ayomanor. “He’s a great coach. He adapted his programs and he helped me get to where I am. He introduced me to bigger competition when I went to nationals for track, and the work ethic it took to compete at those high levels.”
Freeman added that part of the challenge in training Ayomanor as a two-sport athlete was balancing his speed with the added demand for size brought on by a career in football.
“Generally when guys start specializing in football they actually lose some speed because they have to get bigger, they have to bulk up,” said Freeman. “Trying to balance that with Elic, making sure he gained some weight but it was reasonable over a long period of time and that his speed continued to get better and better.
“Part of that I have to thank Quinn Skelton (Hat High football) for giving me some flexibility with that, and understanding we have a two-sport athlete that has a lot of potential to go to a high level.”
And that high level is now well within Ayomanor’s grasp, but he’s not letting that fact go to his head.
“It feels good but I like to stay humble about everything,” he said. “Even though they’re looking at me early, I just want to keep working hard and keep pursuing greater things. I don’t want to just stop here, I want to keep going and get more schools to offer.”
Wherever he ends up, the honour-roll student says he hopes to study dentistry. Why? To share smiles.
“When I was younger I went to get braces, then when I came out with straight teeth it was such a great feeling to be confident in my smile,” he said. “I guess I kind of want to give that as a feeling to other people just like Dr. King gave it to me.”
With any luck, it’ll be a while before Ayomanor embarks on a career in dentistry, as his sights are set firmly on making an impact at the NCAA level then signing the offer that matters most – an NFL contract.
“I just want to take it as far as I can take it,” said Ayomanor. “Whether that’s going to college and then ending off there and getting free schooling, or whether that’s going to the NFL, I’m just going to keep pushing myself and see how far I can actually take the sport.”