In 2017’s early signing period, the Michigan Wolverines football staff gathered around fax machines, eagerly awaiting the results of a hard fought recruiting battle over one of the nation’s top recruits. Instead of getting the result they had hoped for, the target of that battle, Eyabi Okie, committed to Alabama.
It took four years, three programs and a mountain of life lessons, but Okie eventually found his way to Ann Arbor — having found it as an entirely different man than when he made his initial decision.
“I was given everything very quickly,” Okie said at a media availability Tuesday evening. “I started football very, very late in my career, became a five-star real late, and a lot of the little maturity things that some of the five-stars that were ranked before me knew how to take on — I didn’t know how to do it. It was me by myself, and I’ve always just been raising myself, handling my own thing.
“I’m one of those people that yeah, I burnt my hand on the stove, but I learned from it. Every L wasn’t an L, it was a lesson. I learned from all my mistakes.”
Okie’s tenure at Alabama was short-lived; after a promising freshman season that saw him earn SEC All-Freshman honors, he was quietly removed from both the program and the university entirely before the start of the Crimson Tide’s 2019 fall camp.
His time with the Houston Cougars was even more turbulent — not playing a snap before being dismissed from the program in Feb. 2020.
While the exact reasons of Okie’s departures from both programs have never been officially disclosed, Okie didn’t shy away from addressing the circumstances when asked.
“I mean, maturity, I’m gonna be real,” Okie said. “Me personally, it was a hard time adjusting to not being able to play immediately. Certain things were said that didn’t go immediately. But you live and you learn, everything happens for a reason. It happened and I’m proof of it. I don’t let it harvest me and I’m here today.”
The switch in his mindset, Okie claims, came from one person in particular — his grandmother, Grace.
“I consider my grandma my mom,” Okie said. “No one wants to see their son go through ups and downs, especially when they have a promising career. But my grandma, she never turned her back on me. Just really helped me stay grounded. It gets me kind of emotional because she’s not here any more, but she’s the reason I made a whole 360. When you sit right there and you see a woman that says ‘if you’re gonna do anything, do it for me’, completely bought in at that point.”
Now, Okie never lets the memory of his grandmother far from his thought. Whether on the field or off, Okie wears a small bracelet that — when viewed at just the right angle — shines a picture of him and the woman he credits with everything.
The picture serves not just as a honoring of her memory, but as a reminder.
“Every single day I have a bad day, things might not be going my way, I look at it and think what if my grandma was right here,” Okie said. “How would I react? I do it just as my grandma would do it.”
With Okie on the verge of breaking through this Wolverine pass rush, the grad transfer believes he’s finally found a home. This time, he’s ready to make the most of it.