UF's Okine has no regrets
Published: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 8:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, November 16, 2012 at 8:39 p.m.
In the last five years, redshirt senior defensive end Earl Okine has seen it all at the University of Florida.
He was a member of the 2008 National Championship team and also experienced the worst season record at UF since 1987.
He's been through two head coaches, two position coaches and three defensive coordinators. He has changed positions, battled injuries and put on 60 pounds over the course of his career.
But the growth Okine has shown is more than what can be measured on a scale.
Now at 6-foot-7 and 295 pounds, the three-sport athlete from Gainesville High School has gained as much maturity as he has muscle during his time with the Gators.
“I've changed a lot since I was younger,” Okine said. “I was more open when I first came here, but now I don't listen to all the negative things people say and even the positives. I'm very close-nit with my family and I get all my inspiration from them. In order to be successful, you have to be in solitude and concentrate on what you have to do.”
Okine's biggest inspiration is his father, Dr. James Okine, who works at UF in Entomology and Nematology.
The elder Okine and his wife, Grace, left Ghana in 1988 and moved to Gainesville where they've raised Earl and his two siblings.
“When I came to the United States, it was not easy,” Okine said. “But I worked very, very hard through my Ph.D. and that's all they've seen from me. It's good to be very smart, but for me hard work sometimes can overcome excessive intelligence. Sometimes when you're smart, you think things are too easy. But when you work hard, you appreciate every single thing that you achieve. I've always told that to Earl, and he's doing it now more than ever.”
The younger Okine graduated from UF last summer with a degree in Family, Youth and Community Science, and his senior campaign has been his most successful season.
Okine entered 2012 with 15 total tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack for his entire career. Through 10 games this year, he's made 10 tackles and blocked a field goal against Vanderbilt.
Okine credits his improvement to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
“Dan Quinn is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me in my football career,” Okine said. “He's just an excellent coach. I can't say enough about him. He conveys his message on his techniques very well — better than I've ever seen a coach do.”
Okine will have more than 20 members of his family on hand Saturday when Florida hosts Jacksonville State for Senior Day. Okine's father said it will be emotional to see his son run out of the tunnel for the final time, but he knows that life goes on.
“I've told Earl this is one chapter of his life ending and he has to move on to the next chapter now. Whatever that journey is, we know that he'll be successful,” Okine said.
“He's now mature enough to see the bigger picture. Life is not this narrow thing, life is broad. In life it's important how you start, but the most important thing is how you finish.”
Okine said despite his up-and-down career, he has no regrets about staying home and playing for UF.
“I love this university,” Okine said. “I wouldn't have redone anything. I love this program, and it will always be a part of my life. I respect the community of Gainesville and I will always love it.”
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