When Emil Ekiyor Jr. was being recruited by the University of Alabama to play football, community service wasn’t at the top of his list – but it did matter to somebody whose opinion mattered.
“It was definitely something my mom was asking about during the recruiting process – if there would be any opportunities to do community service when I got to school,” Ekiyor said. “It’s something I kind of tried to follow up on to do throughout my time and my career at Alabama. So I think it’s pretty cool I got the opportunity to do something like this and impact a lot of people. I look forward to trying to do that for the rest of my life.”
His efforts while at Alabama helped earn Ekiyor the 2023 Alabama Power Community Service Award at the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
Crimson Tide’s Emil Ekiyor Jr. receives Alabama Power Community Service Award from Alabama News Center on Vimeo.
Like many members of the Crimson Tide football team, Ekiyor took part in service projects related to Nick’s Kids Foundation started by coach Nick Saban and his wife, Terry. The organization has spearheaded the construction of 19 Habitat for Humanity homes in the Tuscaloosa area – 18 for the football team’s national championships and one for the 2021 SEC Championship.
“Coach is really big on his Nick’s Kids events and the Habitat events, and I think that’s really important to him and he stresses the importance of it to us,” Ekiyor said. “It kind of just carried over in my thought process to community service.”
When it became possible for players to make deals to profit off their name, image and likeness (NIL), Ekiyor used that as another opportunity to help others.
Working with nonprofit Samaritan’s Feet, Ekiyor was able to provide 25,000 students in Alabama (ages 4-14) with a new pair of shoes to start the 2022-23 school year.
“Once they opened up the floodgates of NIL, I was reaching out to different companies just to see if I could do something positive within the community with that, and kind of team up with someone to impact somebody or impact somebody’s life in the community,” Ekiyor said. “I found Samaritan’s Feet through doing that. We brainstormed on some ideas of just giving out shoes to the local kids in the Alabama community. It turned out really well and I’m glad it was a success.”
Emil Ekiyor Jr. receives the Alabama Power Community Service Award from Patrick Murphy, Alabama Power Mobile Division vice president. (Travis MIddleton / Reese’s Senior Bowl)
Additionally, Ekiyor did community service work with the Tuscaloosa Juvenile Detention Center, Alberta Head Start Program and in elementary schools across Tuscaloosa County.
His efforts led to him being selected to the 2022 Southeastern Conference Community Service Team.
“Community service is a long-standing tradition at Alabama Power, so it is always an honor to recognize someone like Emil who not only has amazing athletic ability, but also has a heart for helping others,” said Alabama Power Mobile Division Vice President Patrick Murphy. “We are especially proud of Emil’s commitment to helping the Tuscaloosa community right here in Alabama.”
Presenting the Alabama Power Community Service Award are, from left, Todd Warr, Alabama Power lineman; Rhoda Daniels, Alabama Power Customer Service representative; Angus Cooper II, chairman of the Mobile Arts and Sports Association; Emil Ekiyor Sr. and Andrea Ekiyor, Emil Ekiyor Jr.’s parents; Patrick Murphy, Alabama Power Mobile Division vice president; Angus Cooper III, president of the Mobile Arts Sports Association; and Jim Nagy, Senior Bowl executive director. (Michael Tomberlin / Alabama News Center))
Ekiyor’s parents are in Mobile for the Reese’s Senior Bowl and helped with the award presentation during practice for the all-star game.
Ekiyor said if he is fortunate enough to continue playing football professionally, he sees community service as inherent in his career.
“I just think with the platform that we have as players, it’s important to give back to the community and do as much as we can to be positive role models,” he said. “So, I take that with a lot of pride, and something I look forward to continue to try and do.”
Ekiyor said he decided to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl after seeing other Alabama players find success in the game.
“Just seeing the guys from Alabama that came before me and played in this game and had a lot of success because of it,” he said. “I kind of just wanted to follow in their footsteps and be a part of this amazing tradition down here.”
Ekiyor, who played guard on Alabama’s offensive line, is playing center in the Reese’s Senior Bowl, which demonstrates his versatility for pro scouts in attendance. Wearing that Crimson Tide helmet also helps him get noticed at the next level.
Alabama offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor Jr. (55) gets into position against Texas A&M at Bryant Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL on Saturday, Oct 8, 2022. (UA Athletics)
“I had a great experience,” he said about his time at Alabama. “I learned a lot from coach Saban and I’m grateful for the opportunity. It was great to play at such a prestigious university and I got a great education. I got my degree. I would deem it a successful time at the Capstone. I’m grateful for everything I learned and all of the opportunities I’ve been presented because of it.”
The 2023 Reese’s Senior Bowl will be played at the University of South Alabama‘s Hancock Whitney Stadium on Feb. 4 at 1:30 p.m. The game is being televised by the NFL Network.