Spring football is in a surprisingly unique position at the moment. For the first time in modern history, two leagues have operated within the same year, providing opportunities to thousands of athletes across the country.
While things are up in the air regarding a XFL–USFL merger, that doesn’t stop players from continuing to pursue their dreams with either league.
“Can he tackle?” ☑️ “Can he cover? (M2M or Zone)” ☑️ “Is he a leader and does he have quality character?” ☑️
I check all the boxes and I’m ready to bring success to an organization. @USFL@XFL2023
One of those names is Jeff Ejekam, who has had a fascinating story. Despite taking a four year hiatus from playing the game, Ejekam is back in action – playing the best football of his career. Let’s take a look at Jeff’s journey so far, and where he may be heading in the world of spring football.
Jeff Ejekam’s love for the game began at an early age. In elementary school, he randomly decided to play some touch football with some friends, and the rest was history.
“My brother and I were at recess one day, and some friends told us that they were going to play touch football. So we were like, let’s see what this is about. We went over there and played with them, and we were killing it. Even though we didn’t know much about football, once they saw we were freak athletes, one of my friends told me that his dad was the little league coach and that they would love to have us come out and sign up for the team.”
At first, Ejekam’s parents weren’t too fond of the idea. Coming over from Nigeria, they were not sold on the idea of their kids playing American football. However, over time, they were able to convince their parents to play, and the Ejekam brothers got under way and quickly made some noise.
High School Career
Heading towards high school, Jeff Ejekam was a versatile athlete. He had the ability to play on both sides of the football, but was primarily featured on offense early on in his days at Bellaire.
“When we were in high school, we had tons of athletes at Bellaire. They were just a factory of ballers. Lots of high class players have come out of that school. To start, I wasn’t playing much, because I had so many talented guys in front of me. In my sophomore year, I was the third string quarterback on the varsity team – but, I was the starting wide receiver on the JV team. Then during my junior year, I was a full time receiver for varsity.”
Things would change during his senior year. Jeff was originally set to be a valuable wide receiver, but with so many wide outs on the roster, the coaching staff needed to find a place to put him. So, this led to Ejekam playing on both sides of the football that year.
“My coaches needed to figure out where to put me, as they still wanted to use my athleticism, smarts, and gifts on the field. Initially, they only wanted me to play defense. They wanted me to play free safety, since I was very big in high school and they saw me as someone who could excel at the position. As a hard-headed 17 year old, I told them that I still wanted to play receiver since that’s what I was working towards. Looking back on it, it was a very dumb mistake since I play safety now. But, I was able to play both – and actually played all sorts of positions, including half-back and tight end.”
Jeff’s unique path would lead him to play in college for the Army. During his senior year at Bellaire, he got a call from Coach Orlando Mitjans, who was the defensive backs coach at Georgia Southern. He called Jeff and said that they wanted to make him an offer.
But, Mitjans also commented that he might be moving to a different school in the offseason. This led the two of them to reconnect at the Army, where Ejekam ended up playing.
“Coach Mitjans called me and said that he wasn’t sure where exactly he was going, but he wanted me to come with him. But then I never heard back from him, so I thought he was blowing smoke. So, I ended up signing my letter of intent to play with Florida Tech, when they had just started their program. They offered a scholarship, but it wasn’t a full ride, and I didn’t want to put that financial burden on my parents.”
Faced with a tough decision to make, Ejekam would catch a break when Mitjans finally called him back.
“Literally the next month, Orlando gave me a call and said ‘hey, I’m at Army West Point. We want to offer for you right now, is it too late?’ – and I said, ‘no it’s not too late, and yes I’m coming’. I immediately jumped on board with the opportunity, and I knew I’d be able to figure it out along the way. My parents were very happy about it – my dad was ecstatic when I told him the news.”
Jeff Ejekam played at Army West Point for a few seasons (starting two), and finished his career there with 158 receiving yards and a touchdown. In addition, he attended the Army Pro Day and impressed, which earned him a local tryout with the New York Giants.
Stepping Away From The Game
Things would change for Jeff though, as he would have to adjust to the life of army service for the time being. When he was at West Point, the rule was that Ejekam had to serve at least two years in active duty before he could pursue professional sports.
“I had plenty of teams showing interest in me after college, including some CFL organizations such as the Ottawa Redblacks. However, since I was still on active duty, there wasn’t anything they could do about that. So for me, I was just training relentlessly, but knew it would take time before I could get back to the field. When I graduated I was commissioned as a second lieutenant, so I was in the army officially as an officer. My first job was actually coaching at West Point, so that helped keep me close to the game.”
During this time, Jeff did everything he could to keep himself ready for an opportunity. He was training 5-6 days a week, and also attended the Hub Football Camp in 2020 to get some extra reps and put himself back on teams’ radars. Ejekam also had private workouts with the Seattle Seahawks and the Buffalo Bills.
“I was just trying to find a way for people to know my name. I’m probably the only Jeff Ejekam in the world. I was relentless, and I would continue to poke at people while I was in the service. In 2022, I was finally given a position in the army that was a bit more time flexible. So, when I got the opportunity from Vegas in the IFL – Coach Mike Davis had called me in late 2021 – I explained to him my whole military situation. He said not to worry about it, and that whenever I could come, they would have me.”
“If you’re afraid to fail, you’re probably going to fail.” -Kobe Bryant
“Unfinished Business” A Jeff Ejekam Short Doc (Prod. By @rarepm)
Special thanks to everyone involved, who supported, & made this possible.
With the idea of playing in the Indoor Football League to get back on the field for the first time in a few years, Jeff realized that his dream might be coming true.
Opportunity In Vegas
Jeff would see a breakthrough late in 2021, when he went to his boss to tell him about his passion for football, and his goal to get back to playing once his army stint was done.
“My boss was just so passionate about me, that he told me he wanted me to do whatever was best for me. So, he let me go and play indoor football while I was still in the army, which was super cool. So not only was I playing, but I was still working. If my boss needed something done, I got it done for him all the way from Vegas. It was pretty hectic. But I made it work, because I was so grateful that he even gave me the opportunity to do that.”
For the first time in four years, Jeff would be able to hit the football field once again. Once he got to Vegas, he instantly made an impact, and settled back into the game smoothly.
“That was one of the most electrifying feelings, getting back to playing the game. Once I played that first game, I knew that this was what I wanted to do until I couldn’t do it any more.”
In 2022, Ejekam was playing wide receiver in the IFL – but played a couple of games on defense that year. Those two games helped get him to the USFL, because the Memphis Showboats wanted Jeff as a safety.
“The Memphis Showboats wanted me as a safety, so that’s what I signed as. Even at the end of my IFL season, I talked with Coach Mike Davis and my DC, and I asked them what position he thought I could push myself at to excel. They actually told me that they thought I would be a remarkable safety. They said that if I could master the position, my stock would be through the roof. So I went ahead and made that switch, and marketed myself as a safety who could also play at receiver. I was working so hard, I was literally calling every NFL DB that I knew, just trying to get pointers and advice from them so I would be ready for training camp.”
Once March came around, Jeff Ejekam found himself in a professional training camp for the first time in his career. Things went quite well in Memphis, but he was unfortunately released right before the season began.
“When I got to camp, I met some amazing people. The defensive back group there at Memphis was insane. We were loaded. It wasn’t necessarily intimidating, but I was trying to act as a sponge, just soaking up as much valuable information as I could, as this was my first professional year playing safety. This was also my first time playing at a high level like the USFL. I was doing everything that I could, in my playbook every day, constantly training. I definitely respect the decision that Memphis made. It was a great learning lesson for me, and made me even more hungry to get back to playing.”
I want thank the @USFLShowboats for the opportunity to further my career. Unfortunately I was released today. With that being said I am healthy and ready to play! Film ready to be sent.@USFL@XFL2023
Ejekam wouldn’t have to wait long to get back to playing the game. The Vegas Knighthawks lost a safety, and quickly gave Jeff a call.
“Coach Davis asked me if I would come out to play safety, and I said ‘absolutely’. I literally jumped on the plane the next day, and played just two days later. I started at box safety in my first game back, and ended up having nine tackles, leading our team in that category. Knowing that I felt like I could have done more to stay in Memphis, and not get released, it lit a fire in me to perform at the highest level I could in Vegas.”
For his first year at safety, Jeff Ejekam played impressively well for Vegas. He finished the season with 42 tackles, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and four pass breakups.
“The team didn’t do too hot this year in the IFL, but I learned a lot that really helped me as a football player. I am so excited for whatever comes next, because I know that if I get into an XFL or USFL camp, it’s going to be night and day compared to when I was in Memphis. Just who I am as a person, obviously being an army veteran, I have leadership and accountability. I’m just tenacious about what I do. Any team that picks me up isn’t going to get any problems out of me.”
The Road Ahead
For Jeff Ejekam, this road hasn’t always been easy. His football journey has been filled with ups and downs – including a four year hiatus from the game he loved. Through it all, Jeff made zero excuses, and continues to put his head down and grind towards whatever may come his way next.
“I think relentlessness is definitely the term that comes to my head first. I could have easily stopped on this journey a while ago. When I graduated and I couldn’t pursue football for a few years, that’s multiple classes who are already ahead of me, and I’m playing catch up. Perseverance is something that I pride myself in. I’m not going to take no for an answer. You can get 1,000 “no’s”, but if you get one yes, that’s the only one you need. You really have to hold onto your ‘why’. For me, not only does football bring me peace, but I love the platform that it’s given me where I can influence others, and give back to the community as a whole.”
Most recently, Jeff Ejekam got to attend the XFL Showcases in Orlando. We are wishing Jeff nothing but the best moving forward in his professional career, and hope to see him with an XFL/USFL organization sooner than later.
Where would you like to see Jeff Ejekam play football? Is there a specific USFL/XFL team that would be the right fit? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!