The American dream is quickly becoming a reality for Junior Gnonkonde. Only three years after landing in South Georgia from the Ivory Coast in West Africa, Gnonkonde realized his lifelong goal of securing a college scholarship.
Quite unexpectedly — for him at least — he’ll do it on a football scholarship. After playing football for only two years, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound outside linebacker committed to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Friday.
“No, I never would have imagined it,” said Gnonkonde, his deep West African accent very evident. “It’s like a dream for me.”
Gnonkonde becomes the first commitment of the 2012 class for Tech, which offered him at its first Junior Day camp a couple of weeks ago. At this point he had no other offers but Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Clemson and numerous other major colleges have been evaluating him.
Gnonkonde is from Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire, located on the west coast of Africa. He came to Lanier County and the city of Lakeland just three years ago to live with an uncle and aunt to play AAU basketball and hopefully get noticed by college recruiters. He said he had never played football until two years ago, when he was recruited off the basketball team.
While football was completely foreign to him at first, Gnonkonde’s size and strength were a perfect fit. Despite his somewhat thin frame he is already one of the strongest players on the Lanier County football team. He’s also one of the fastest. He has quickly become a force as a tight end and defensive end. He’s expected to play outside linebacker with the Yellow Jackets.
“I had much to learn but I feel like I understand it now,” he said.
Gnonkonde spent the last two weeks contemplating the offer he received from Georgia Tech and talking it over with his family and Lanier County athletics director John White, with whom he now resides.
He decided to commit on Friday. He did it from the school via conference call to Tech head coach Paul Johnson and assistant coach Todd Spencer.
“They were really happy,” Gnonkonde said.
As for the possibility of holding out for other offers, Gnonkonde said he didn’t see the point in it.
“Georgia Tech has everything I want,” he said. “They have a good education program. I love technology and computers and things like that and that’s the school to go to learn about it.”
By Chip Towers, The College Recruiting Blog