TD Ayo-Durojaiye, running back and 2024 NFL Draft prospect, delved into his journey coming from a non-football family to overcoming obstacles to now declaring for the Draft.
Ayo-Durojaiye originally was from Nigeria before coming to the United States, where a sport like football was not the norm.
“Being from Nigeria, football isn’t something that is really played over there,” said Ayo-Durojaiye, “I come from a big soccer family. I have always been interested in football from a young age, probably about the age of six. I’m a pretty big Ravens fan.”
His family preferred him to do other sports at first, but he ultimately began playing in sixth grade. He touched on how his sixth grade experience was.
“I kinda had to wait a long time and I got to see all my friends play and come to school with their jerseys and I never really got to be a part of that,” shared Ayo-Durojaiye, “In sixth grade I was pretty small and frail but I could run pretty fast, so I usually just ran away from people. At first I wasn’t the best, but I was a good athlete.”
Later in middle school, he shared that eighth grade is where he learned and got more skilled at the sport. Soon enough, high school came along where it was time for his skills to be shown on the field in front of an audience.
“I came from a town that was really big on football, and anytime there was a Friday night game, the whole town sat down and everyone was there,” expressed Ayo-Durojaiye, “I had the opportunity to go to a public school that was really good in my time there. I was able to be on varsity by the end of my freshman year. We ended up going on a streak with 53 straight wins.”
Sophomore year was when Ayo-Durojaiye played varsity full-time. His sophomore year also happened to be one of his most memorable times playing the sport at the high school level.
“I remember getting my first start in the playoffs my sophomore year and I ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns in two-and-a-half quarters before I got hurt,” shared Ayo-Durojaiye, “I just remember that kind of being my breakout game. People didn’t really expect that from me, but it was kind of like a hard work and payoff moment. It was a tough year. I got screamed at and chewed up by the coaches almost every week and I felt like I had to be perfect all the time.”
During a very important game, Ayo-Durojaiye had to sit out because he had an injury that halted him from playing.
“It was an LCL sprain,” said Ayo-Durojaiye, “I just remember being like dang, I’m having the peak of my athletic career in high school, for a school that really loves football, there’s like 8,000 people out here, it’s a playoff game, it’s state-semis. I’m just thinking about just continuing to make more plays and kind of leaving that game and having to go to rehab. Luckily we had two weeks to prepare for the state championship game so I was able to play in that game, but that process of not being able to practice and having to watch the game from the sidelines for the first time in my life, it was definitely a humbling experience. It kind of reminds you that you can never get too high because life will sometimes humble you.”
Going into his junior year, recruiting was the next step.
“I was able to have a lot of success and I was able to get my first offer from a hometown school by the name of Morgan State, it’s a HBCU,” shared Ayo-Durojaiye, “as soon as I got that offer, it started to add-on. I remember it was February, the day before Valentine’s Day, my junior year and I got a call at work and I had no idea who it was and I got my first offer on the phone. I was able to collect over 30 offers from that moment on.”
He expressed how he approached preparing for the college-level.
“My college process really started with the teammates I already had, watching them go through that process,” shared Ayo-Durojaiye, “one of my teammates, he really pushed me and took me under his wing, he was two years older than me and he was also a running back so watching him, that game where I had ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns, he had seven. Watching him and trying to model my game after him in a way and the way he prepared himself for games, the way he prepared his body, the way he trained in off-season, those are things I took after and when you’re going against somebody that’s older than you and you know that’s better, it ultimately pushes you to the level that you really want to be at.”
Villanova stood out to Ayo-Durojaiye as they came at a time he did not expect.
“Villanova came at a time where I had just lost my first high school game,” stated Ayo-Durojaiye, “like, I was in shock. I was in a really deep and down spot and I went to take a visit there and it felt like family…They told me about becoming a better person and just growing as a player. That ended up being my only official visit.”
He continued to share what his time was like playing at Villanova.
“I had somebody who I had played against in high school who was already there,” said Ayo-Durojaiye, “to be a part of something special. I ended up being able to win two conference championships in five seasons and make it on conference a few times. So it ended up being the right choice.”
One of his memorable games at Villanova quickly stood out to the player.
“We actually played at week zero my freshman year,” noted Ayo-Durojaiye, “we were actually the first college football game in the entire season regardless of level. I was the third-string running back as a freshman which is pretty good…I was just telling one of my friends and family at home how excited I was to have the opportunity and I was telling everybody if we kick off first I’m going to make the first tackle of the college football season and I actually ended up doing that. That was a big moment for me. I didn’t even celebrate. I didn’t know what to do. I kinda just looked around and ran off to the sideline. That moment was honestly special because special teams ended up being something that allowed me to get a lot of notoriety I got while I was at Villanova so that moment kind of just really sparked something for me.”
Now, Ayo-Durojaiye is training for the 2024 NFL Draft. He likes being a mentor to younger children in his community and would like to be someone for the future generations of athletes. He currently has his “Nightmare Knowledge” podcast in which he shares athlete’s perspectives, experiences, and how to get through a journey similar to his own. He also likes helping other athletes by training others through his bodybynightmare business.