During the beginning weeks of the off-season, Inside the Gators will take an in-depth look at how last season went for Florida's 2019 signees who redshirted with our Redshirt Report series. Today, we focus on how this past season went for offensive lineman Kingsley Eguakun.
Offensive lineman Kingsley Eguakun committed to Miami in January 2018 during his junior year of high school in Jacksonville. However, as has become something of a yearly tradition in the state of Florida, he didn’t end up as a Hurricane.
Orange and Blue runs through his blood.
His family tree is littered with University of Florida alumni including a great grandfather and grandmother, and part of the George A. Smathers Libraries on UF’s campus is named after his great-grandmother.
As his high school career came to a close, Eguakun received an offer from the Gators in November 2018. He flipped from Miami to Florida a few days later and enrolled last January.
“When we went to the different schools, I told Kingsley that he needed to go and not listen to anyone and just kind of feel his own intuition, what felt good to him,” his mother, Melissa Raitt, said. “Look at the schools and see ‘Are those his people? Does that feel like his school? Does that feel like his team?’ and weigh out the pros and cons for his own self because this is his journey, his future, his team, his school.”
Now he’ll be looking for things to come together on the field. He only played against Towson and Vanderbilt and redshirted in 2019. He knew redshirting was a possibility when he arrived at UF, and he trusts the coaches’ plan for his development, Raitt said.
“He thought that this was a great experience for him to be able to early enroll, come in and learn his way around, grow, get to know the team, get stronger and grow as a player so that when it’s his time that he could already be in the loop to really have a feel for things and know how things roll and know his fundamentals and details of what Coach expects,” she said.
Enrolling early was extremely beneficial for him, she said. It gave him additional time to adjust to school, a new way of playing football and living away from his family.
“The details of him learning his role is very important to him, and perfecting his craft is very important to him,” she said. “So, this just gave him the extra time that he needed to do that.”
As is often the case with freshmen, Eguakun also used his redshirt year to get bigger and stronger. While Director of Strength and Conditioning Nick Savage and his staff deserve their share of credit for increasing his strength, Raitt said his year-round commitment to his workout regimen is also a key factor. He works out with his brother Jonah, a sophomore football player at Sandalwood, when he comes home to Jacksonville.
“He’s a lot stronger,” Jonah Eguakun said. “He works really hard, and he just focuses on the details to make sure everything is properly strengthened. When he comes home, he gets me a lot stronger and teaches me new stuff on how to get stronger and better.”
A former three-star prospect, Eguakun practiced at both guard and center in 2019. Raitt said he’s comfortable playing wherever and will do whatever the coaches ask of him.
With center Nick Buchanan departed, there will be at least one starting job up for grabs on interior of the offensive line, and he could have a chance to take it. Based on how his brother described his playing style, it sounds like he has the ideal skillset to play center.
“Very aggressive,” Jonah Eguakun said. “He’s a dog. He’s not going to stop until the whistle blows. He’s very strong, has a lot of technique. He’s very smart. When he comes home, he’s teaching me how to read the defense.”
Some of the things Eguakun is focusing on this spring are improving his fundamentals, further increasing his knowledge of the game, getting stronger and stepping up as a team leader, his mom and brother said.
Recruits often talk about finding a “home” during the recruiting process, but the term couldn’t be any more accurate than when describing Eguakun. His great-grandmother’s name is forever immortalized in UF’s library. Perhaps he will surpass her someday by having his name displayed in an even more prominent location, such as an All-American brick outside of the stadium. Even if that never happens, this is a fitting next chapter in his family’s story.
“The decision was not hard, and it was not a whirlwind at all,” Raitt said. “When Kingsley made the decision, it was an easy decision for him. He felt like home. It felt like a home place for him, and he felt like that was where he needed to be.”