Bamidele Olaseni is 6-feet, 8-inches tall, and weighs 350 pounds.
He’s athletic, strong and quick for his size.
He’s the perfect prospect for a football player.
Thing is, in England, where he’s from, that’s the wrong type of football player the English are used to.
Olaseni, now a second-year Garden City Community College Bronbuster and known simply as 'Bam', grew up in London, and competed in track and field in high school.
He never touched an American football or thought about the sport at all, until his athleticism and size was noticed by a mentor who suggested Olaseni play American football.
“So I looked at this crazy sport where you put on pads and helmets and run into each other,” Olaseni said.
He joined what is essentially a recreation league in London, playing nine-man football where he paid £130 (or roughly $170) per season to play the game.
“Sundays and Wednesdays were practices,” Olaseni said, “and I was working, and a lot of other guys were working so you couldn’t always make practice.”
Despite wanting to play linebacker (something he acknowledges now might have been a bit much at the 370 pounds he weighed then), Olaseni was put on the offensive line — and he excelled.
After two seasons playing nine-man football, Olaseni moved up to the “senior” division, for men older than 19. Some remnants from NFL Europe were still left in the league, as well, Olaseni said with a wholly British accent.
“Every week, a team would talk about, ‘We have this defensive end who’s going to destroy your rookie left tackle (Olaseni),’ and I’d always just, I wouldn’t say annihilate, but I did my job.”
Still, it was American football in London, so it did not matter much how well Olaseni performed — his opportunities for collegiate football in the U.S. were limited.
“A lot of schools in this conference denied me,” he said. “They just said the British game wasn’t good enough.”
Even GCCC head coach Jeff Sims was more sold on Olaseni’s size than any playing ability he displayed on the gridiron in London.
“He’s 6-9, 340 pounds,” Sims said with a laugh, when asked why he and former assistant coach Keiki Misipeka recruited Olaseni to southwest Kansas. “I recruited every 6-7, 6-8, 6-9 guy I can. It’s kind of like a D-II philosophy. If I recruit 10, and two end up being good, that’s two 6-9 guys that can play. It’s worth a shot.”
Olaseni has turned out to be one of the two who can play.
He’s got seven offers from Power Five programs, according to 247sports.com, including Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Nebraska and Arkansas.
“It’s been a crazy transition,” Olaseni said. “It’s a dream come true.”
The transition has never been easy.
“He had to learn the basics,” former GCCC offensive line coach Josh Beekman said of Olaseni, who Beekman coached in 2017. “He didn’t grow up playing American football … It’s overwhelming.”
Beekman said how Olaseni was used to having to do one assignment to execute a play in London, but in the Buster offense, “now you have to do X, Y and Z.”
“It was obviously crazy,” Olaseni said of the difference in play from London to the NJCAA. “The speed of the game is just different. Instead of linebackers looking and thinking, by that time in the UK I’m already on them. But here, it’s snap, and you see the linebacker and already knows exactly where he’s going. Last year, it was hard.”
It was a matter of getting Olaseni to grasp the fundamentals of football, and then build on that.
“He had zero knowledge (of football),” Sims said, at least in terms of the level of play Sims expects of his team.
So the Busters started from scratch with Olaseni, correcting mistakes or flaws after every repetition in practice.
“Every day, just correct, correct, correct,” Sims said. “It’s the language even. We both speak English, but he doesn’t get (football) terms.”
But little by little, Olaseni’s understanding of the game started to catchup to his size.
“It’s kind of like chopping down a tree, and it doesn’t look like it’s ever going to fall down, and then all of a sudden it does,” Sims said.
This summer, the Busters’ big tree at tackle is getting it all down.
“He’s made a lot of progress, and the thing about it is he’s got a lot of progress to go,” Sims said. “He’s incredibly blessed.”
Olaseni says he’s working on refining his body language coming into this year.
“Last year, it looked like I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t, but I’m very monotone in the way I am, but this year I’m working on that.”
And despite never having a conversation with Olaseni about the intended change, Sims has noticed.
“His body language is much better, and I think maybe he learned his body language would cause him to get corrected (at practice),” Sims said. “Where now, I don’t know if he’s getting corrected as much, because at least he’s acting like he knows what’s going on.”
So now Sims said he is focusing on increasing Olaseni’s physicality.
“He’s big, but he’s not a mean, physical person,” Sims said. “It’s almost against his nature, because his whole life he was always told, ‘You’re bigger. You’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to be nice,’ and now we’re telling him, ‘Don’t be careful. Be physical.’”
And in the talent-ridden KJCCC, Olaseni has to be more physical. He’s going to go against a team every week that probably wants to take advantage of the tackle from England.
But Olaseni is looking to ‘do my job.’