When Arnold Ebiketie got a call from Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot on draft night, for him it was the culmination of everything he had been through to reach that point in his life. Born in Yaoundé, Cameroon, Ebiketie’s first love was football, the most popular sport in this West-Central African country.
When Ebiketie’s parents, Jean Marie Ebiketie and Guy Susanne, took him and his three siblings to the United States at age 13, there was no familiarity with American football. While attending Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland, Ebiketie noticed that soccer was one of the least popular sports at his school. He later exposed him to football, not knowing he would be drafted into the NFL seven years later.
“Going to school with everyone, there were more basketball players and footballers,” Ebiketie said. “I wanted to be competitive and bond with the other guys and that’s why I made the transition. At first I started with basketball and then I switched to football.”
Being a late bloomer in the sport hasn’t stopped Ebiketie from standing out among guys who have played football all their lives. As a naturally competitive and athletic person, traits instilled in him by his father, this made Ebiketie’s transition to the United States easier. Establishing these connections with the athletes through basketball and football made it easier for him to adapt to this new environment.
During his three years at Albert Einstein, he played both wide receiver and linebacker, earning Co-Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-Sentinel honors during his senior campaign. He had 298 receiving yards, three touchdowns, 36 tackles for loss and 21.5 sacks.
As these stats clearly show, football came naturally to the native Cameroonian. His father had developed a love for American football while still in high school, but his mother didn’t really start taking the sport seriously until the college scholarship offers started rolling in.
“She started to see the accolades that I was getting and that’s when she came back and started learning the game and now it’s amazing for my whole family as I’ve been able to inspire,” Ebiketie said.
Ebiketie would later bring his talents to Temple University, as a defensive end. He led Temple in tackles for loss, forced fumbles and sacks. In a game against South Florida, Ebiketie set a single-game tackles-for-loss record and was tied at the end of that season for first in the conference for forced fumbles. During his three seasons at Temple, he realized he had accomplished everything he set out to do but knew there was another challenge ahead.
“As a football player, I was looking for challenges and ways to improve,” Ebiketie said. “I wanted to go to a program like Penn State, the place that would allow you to improve as a football player and also teach you how to be a professional in the sport. That was the main reason why I wanted to make that transition, and looking back, I think it was the best decision I made.”
As a redshirt senior at Penn State, Ebiketie had 62 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and was honored as the Nittany Lions Coaching Staff Defensive Player of the Week. twice.
After a successful college tenure, Ebiketie was ready to fulfill his dream of playing professional football at the highest level.