Praise Olatoke primed for NFL shot with LA Chargers as Scot desperate to prove 'small but mighty' theory

-Credit: (Image: LA Chargers)
-Credit: (Image: LA Chargers)

He’s a long way from Kinning Park but NFL-bound Praise Olatoke is intent on showing the world Scotland may be “small but we’re still mighty” .

And he’s ready to do his bit restoring some national pride on sport’s big stage after a miserable Euros campaign for those performing with another football. Born in Nigeria, raised in Scotland from the age of five, Olatoke’s primed for his shot after the Los Angeles Chargers nabbed the runner turned wide receiver. His involvement in the NFL’s international pathway programme, along with former Wales rugby star Louis Rees-Zammit, paved the way for a life-changing opportunity Stateside.

But the underdog status the 24-year-old, whose family still live here, relished performing for Scotland as a sprinter is the same one he’ll tap into in the hunt for touchdowns. A former Scottish Under-20 athlete of the year running track with Kilbarchan AAC only five years ago, he said: “I’ve had a ton of folk from Scotland, people from primary school, high school ‘Hey we saw this…’. That’s been sick.

“I'm going back to Scotland in a week-and-a-half so I am going to be able to see a bunch of people and show love. Especially on the world stage Scotland is known but it is not really known.

“‘Oh Scotland is that pretty country with the golf’. But there is so much untapped potential in Scotland so I am a product of that. From Cardonald Primary School where I learned how to properly speak English... St Columba’s (in Kilmacolm).

“I grew up and I learned how to be myself in Scotland. The saying that people make Scotland – those people in Scotland were the people who made me.

“I have seen how powerful Scotland can be... there is so much raw energy and passion and gravitas that can come from Scotland. That is something I really want to show the world that, yeah, we’re small but we’re still mighty. I love the place, I love going back.”

LA may be calling him but as for his family, he laughed and said: “I don’t think they are going to make the big move right now – they love Scotland way too much! My dad doesn’t want to leave. I could be in Antartica or Jamaica, he’s going to live in Scotland or in Nigeria!”

Having earned a full scholarship in 2020 to head off to Canada before moving to Ohio State on another, the route he’s taken to a stage watched by millions has been remarkable. He’s the first to admit “so many different dominos had to fall my way” but this is a guy who “if I say I want to go to the moon, eventually I think I’ll do it”.

Praise Olatoke -Credit:LA Chargers
Praise Olatoke -Credit:LA Chargers

Now gearing up for a battle to make the Chargers' final roster for the season starting in September, he added: “It’s a crazy journey, honestly. I was just talking to my mum on Monday about how far I’ve come from Kinning Park to Los Angeles – it is just nuts.

“To think about the different directions and countries and cities taken to get here, it feels great, it is a crazy story. I’ve said before that I strive to live a life of adventure and this is something that proves I’m just going for adventure. I'm excited and ready to see where it takes me.”

Scotland has sent two kickers, a punter and a pass rusher the NFL’s way – now the first offensive player capable of bringing fireworks with a touchdown or two is in store. Olatoke said: “I am looking forward to it, it is going to be sick to do that for Scotland.

“We just saw how they did at the Euros and it wasn’t the best so I'm hoping I can bring a little bit of Scottish pride back this season. We’ll see. It is pretty cool.”