March 3rd, 2024

Ayomanor to build off highlight reel season

By JAMES TUBB on December 9, 2023.

AP PHOTO DAVID ZALUBOWSKI Stanford wide receiver Elic Ayomanor celebrates after making a touchdown catch in overtime of an NCAA college football game on Oct. 13 in Boulder, Colo.

Elic Ayomanor had a record breaking debut season for Stanford’s football program, but he’s not satisfied yet.

The Medicine Hat product piled up accolades and honours for his first full season donning the Stanford Cardinal red. He was named to The Athletic’s Freshman All-America team, received an all PAC-12 honourable mention, was named Stanford’s offensive MVP – winning the Irving S. Zeimer award – he set the program’s record for receiving yards in a game (294) and was a finals for top Canadian football player in the NCAA.

All of that attention and those honours mean a lot to the 19-year-old. But he says this isn’t his end goal and he is focused on the future and trying to maintain that pace. What it does mean to him, is that his hard work is paying off.

“It’s just a testament to the long days, early nights and all the work I’ve put in over these past couple of years,” Ayomanor said. “I was injured last year, so there was a lot of work that had to be done coming from Sept. 8 of last year when I had my ACL surgery. To this point, there’s been a lot of ups and downs, so it’s just a testament to the consistency of work I’ve put in and also just the strength of the community that I’m in right now.”

Ayomanor was set to debut in 2022 when he suffered an ACL injury that kept him off the field. He says it could have been a depressing time for him but credits his teammates and the Stanford football community for keeping him from staying down. It allowed him to meet people outside football, starting with his roommate who was not a football player.

Ayomanor says it was enlightening to see the achievements students had that aren’t measured in statistics or with highlight reels.

“There’s multiple kids I’ve met who already have their own companies and they have had their companies since they were like teens,” Ayomanor said. “One guy in specific started his company when he was 16 years old. When I was 16, I didn’t even know you could do that, I didn’t even know that was legal.”

When he did get healthy and on the field for his red-shirt freshman season, Ayomanor put up numbers people didn’t know was possible – or even legal.

Ayomanor had six touchdowns and 1,013 yards in his 12 games for the Cardinals, the eighth most receiving yards in school history and first since 2018 to tally 1,000. His highlight game on the season, and one that stood out NCAA-wide, was a three-TD, 13 reception, 294-yard performance in Stanford’s 46-43 double OT win over the Colorado Buffaloes on Oct. 13.

Ayomanor and Stanford completed a 29-0 comeback in the second half to beat the Deion Sanders-led Buffaloes, with the local product stealing the spotlight with an over-the-shoulder catch for a touchdown to force the double OT.

Ayomanor says it’s a game he’ll cherish for the rest of his life and the moment where he broke free from the kid with a hurt ACL to the player he knew he always was.

“It was honestly just the perfect environment,” Ayomanor said.

“The only game on that Friday, it was PAC-12 After Dark, against Colorado who at the time were the biggest college football team in the media, the stage was set. That was one of the first games that I took my brace off and was feeling super light and smooth. That played a part and just my confidence in how I was playing, the quarterbacks were throwing great balls.

“Everybody just came together in that second half and that allowed me to play so well. It’s really a whole team effort there but the energy was awesome.”

The Cardinals finished their season on Nov. 25 with a loss to Notre Dame, ending the year 3-9. Heading into next season, Ayomanor says the team focus is building their culture back up in their second year under new coaching, and for himself, it’s about getting better and working on his condition to be better for longer in games.

He’ll return to Medicine Hat for Christmas and be with his mom Pam. She was at Stanford’s last couple of games and was at the award banquet where he received the offensive MVP award. He credits her for his success and making him the football player and man he is.

“A lot of the things I accomplished are true in virtue of her, just raising me the right way,” Ayomanor said. “That’s all a testament to just herself and her personality, who she is as a woman and a mother. It’s just great to make her proud, as a son, you don’t want anything more than that.”

He says he’s received a lot of messages from friends in Medicine Hat, former coaches and teachers, and makes sure to stay in touch with those who, like his mom, helped him reach this level. When it comes to the next Elic Ayomanor in Medicine Hat who is looking to chase their pro football dreams like him, Ayomanor says it’s about having confidence in yourself and going all in on those dreams.

“When I came out of Canada, there was a lot of voices saying maybe I shouldn’t move to America, it’s a whole different game, a whole different type of athletes there, it’s going be a lot harder, which is true. But, you have to really trust in yourself and believe in yourself and take jumps that seem scary at the time. It feels like you’re jumping off a cliff but it’s just something that you have to do.

“If you don’t end up being successful, at least you gave everything you had towards your goal, there’s a lot of value had in that.”

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