Wednesday November 7, 2012Earl Okine: Support System Fuels This Gator
By Kristin Watkins, UF Communications
Although things haven’t always come easy for redshirt senior Earl Okine, a strong support system and hard work have translated into success for this Gator on the football field.
“My parents came from Africa, immigrated over here right before I was born,” said the defensive lineman. “Nothing came easy for my dad.”
That didn’t stop his father, James Okine, from striving for success. He is currently working at the University of Florida in Entomology and Nematology.
Okine’s relationship with his father plays a key component within his life. Many times over the years, Okine has counted on the relationship that he has built with his father to propel him through some challenging situations. With his family residing in Gainesville, they can still enjoy that father-son interaction on a daily basis that drives the younger Okine to be the best he can be.
“He is one of my biggest motivators, he and my mom,” said Okine. “I get all of my advice from him. We talk hours on end every day because I am always stressed out about something and he will tell me how to handle it.”
That support has helped throughout his time playing football. Okine becam involved with the sport at nine years old, and has been moved around to an assortment of positions looking for the right fit. In high school, he was a wide receiver until his junior year, when the coaching staff moved him to defensive end. Since then, he has embraced the role of playing defense.
Despite growing up in Gainesville, attending the University of Florida and playing football for the Gators weren’t necessarily on his radar in the beginning. It wasn’t until he began to work with UF’s football program that he really embraced the experience.
“I always liked the Gators but it wasn’t something that I thought was going to happen or was a dream of mine. It is something that I hold very dear to me now and I appreciate it a lot more than I did when I first started playing.”
Each year has been an exercise in development for Okine, who has been forced to battle through several injuries during his time at Florida and has improved upon his work ethic since joining the Gators.
“I was sheltered and I just got through high school football with sheer athleticism,” the Gainesville High School product acknowledged. “I didn’t really know how to work hard until I got here. I feel like I turned into a more militant football player and a more physical player and I am more of an assertive person now. I think that is what this program has done for me.”
Coming into the 2012 season, Okine had tallied 15 total tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack. So far this season through eight games, he has collected eight tackles and blocked a field-goal attempt at Vanderbilt to help propel the Gators to a win over the Commodores that improved their record to 6-0.
According to Okine, coming through with the big play is a normal occurrence for the Florida defense.
“It was exciting but I was just doing whatever it took to win the game and make a play,” he said. “That is what our defense is made up of – playmakers. It could be your time or it could be the next guy’s time but we are a defense that makes plays constantly and we are all game-changers.”
The defense has been a huge presence for the Orange and Blue this season as it is challenging for the SEC Eastern Division title, a feat that is not surprising to this team.
“I don’t think there is any shock factor in any of us because all of us expected to do this,” Okine commented about Florida’s performance this season. “We are not going to change our outlook on anything and be complacent. One thing I have learned not to do is to be complacent, especially at this level, because there is always someone there waiting to take your spot. There is a driving effect to get better.”
With four games remaining on the schedule, there is still plenty of football to be played and Okine wants to be sure that he does his part for this team to potentially reach the ultimate goal – a national championship. He was here as a redshirt freshman when the Gators brought home the top prize in 2008 and remembers one snapshot from that season as his favorite moment in The Swamp.
“My favorite moment was not even playing in The Swamp, but it was my freshman year against Miami. It was the loudest I have ever heard it.”
Okine does not know what will happen for him after is career at Florida, but, after seeing how well his father has done for himself and his family since coming to America, he knows the possibilities are endless.
“My father ended up having great success,” remarked the Gainesville native. “I feel like history repeats itself in that, that’s what I have been going through a lot. I think that if I work hard I will end up having the same life as my dad.”
This season has been Okine’s best with the Gators thus far, and he hopes that can translate to a future at the next level with the NFL.