Sundays, for many, are days of relaxation; ones with little or no excitement.
That wasn’t the case on May 4 for Kaetochukwu ‘Kay’ Okafor.
During the afternoon ceremony for St. F.X. spring convocation, the native of Enugu, Nigeria crossed the stage with his Bachelor of Business Administration with Major, which would, on its own, make for a memorable day.
But, the all-star defensive lineman with the X-Men football team wasn’t finished.
That evening, Okafor got a phone call from the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League (CFL), who had just selected him in the third round (21st overall) of the draft.
“It was surreal. It was a very, very, very happy day for me,” Okafor said.
For him, the highlight of the momentous day was sharing the happiness with his father, Chris, who was visiting from their homeland. The son had not seen his father since leaving Nigeria.
“Having him here really made everything so special, made everything more emotional for me. He was here for, basically, the two most important events of my life, so far; just to share that with him was very special,” Okafor said.
“It was amazing to have him here – the look on his face, when I graduated and when I got drafted, and having him here to witness it, first hand, was the best part of everything.”
Adding to the greatness of the day for Okafor was having other family members, not to mention his friends, along with teammates and coaches from the X-Men program, share the excitement.
“We all celebrated,” he said.
They were together when he received the draft day call.
“It was an amazing feeling and so great to share it with everyone,” Okafor added.
He said the Tiger Cats had expressed interest in him in the lead-up to the draft.
“We talked a couple times and they were one of the teams that interviewed me at the [CFL] combine,” Okafor said, noting each club in the league did the latter.
“So, in a certain way, I also didn’t really know that I was going to go, or when I was going to go.”
He added he is “very excited” about joining the storied CFL franchise.
“They have a great organization and I have a great relationship with them already,” Okafor said.
“It is a great fit for me.”
His defensive line coach will be former X-Men head coach Dennis McPhee.
“He is an amazing guy and I look forward to working with him,” Okafor said.
X-Men head coach Gary Waterman said “for us to see that come true for him is really special,” of Okafor’s CFL selection.
“We are all excited, around campus, and our staff and the players. We know how hard Kay has worked,” he said.
When asked what the Tiger Cats are getting, Waterman started by calling the 6’3”, 270-pound defensive lineman “an outstanding person.”
“He is a good player, with a huge upside, and he is a fine man – a person who is great in the community, great teammate and a hard working guy,” he said.
“Like I said, he has got a ton of potential and, I think, everyone knows that.”
Waterman noted the praise he has received from pundits.
“They have been saying that he might be one of the highest upside guys in the draft. I think they are getting a guy where the sky is the limit with his potential,” he said.
Waterman called Okafor a “great athlete.”
“He is strong – a long-armed player – who is agile. They are also getting a guy who is very coachable, who is going to have a great ‘get off the ball’ and really going to compete hard,” he added.
Waterman said having X-Men drafted by Canadian league teams is a great reflection not only on the players, but also the program.
“It’s great for our program. Again, as I said, for people that may not know much about us across the country, this is definitely another way that our name and our brand and team get out there. The draft is a marquee thing in Canadian football and all eyes are on the draft,” he said.
“So, when you have someone from your school and your school’s name called, I think it is good – it is good for recruiting and it is good for the morale of the players.
“They know that, through hard work, they can accomplish whatever their major goals are – professional football being one of them – from right on the St. F.X. campus,” Waterman added.
When asked about his Xaverian experience – on and off the field – Okafor said “St. F.X. has been amazing to me.”
He noted, along with Holland College in Charlottetown where he started playing football less than five years ago, St. F.X. gave him “the opportunity to be where I am now.”
“Without St. F.X., I wouldn’t be here,” Okafor added.
He credited his coaches, teammates, trainers and therapists for their role in helping him reach his goal, something Okafor said he will never forget.
Although leaving St. F.X. is bittersweet, Okafor said he is “ready to take that next step.”
“But, St. F.X. is always going to be another home for me and I am definitely going to be coming back.
“I just want to thank the whole St. F.X. community for all the love and support that they have given me. I look forward to representing everyone with the utmost pride and dignity.”
Okafor will report to Hamilton’s training camp May 25.
“I am just looking forward to that; looking forward to getting there and putting in the work – getting this thing going,” he said.