As participants in Premier Players International’s DreamChasers Tour, Hero Kanu and Theodor Melin Öhrström are spending the month of June traveling from one college football camp to another, driving all over the United States to put their skills on display for some of the nation’s top programs.
Typically, that means spending just one day at each college before piling back into a van with “nine stinky dudes sitting in the back,” as Kanu described it, before driving to their next stop. After coming all the way from Europe to be a part of PPI's DreamChasers Tour, they’re trying to get to as many college football camps as they can during the June recruiting period.
After camping at Ohio State on Tuesday, however, Öhrström and Kanu decided they needed to stay a little longer to get a full picture of what Ohio State has to offer. So while the rest of their PPI group hit the road after Tuesday’s camp to get to their next stops, Kanu and Öhrström spent the night in Columbus and returned to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for Wednesday’s camp to spend more time with Ohio State coaches and players.
“I felt like I had to get the whole feel of the whole university,” Öhrström said Wednesday after receiving an offer from the Buckeyes on Tuesday. “When I go back to Sweden, it’s going to be hard to visit, so I really wanted to get a full impression while I’m here.”
Kanu, who plays at Santa Margarita Catholic High School in California but whose family still lives in Germany, already had an Ohio State offer before Tuesday’s camp. A four-star defensive tackle who’s currently ranked as the No. 82 overall prospect in the 2022 recruiting class, Kanu is the highest-rated prospect that PPI – a program founded by Brandon Collier, a Cleveland native who played college football at UMass, to help international football players land opportunities to play in America – has ever had.
It was easy to see why on Tuesday morning. An exceptional athlete at 6-foot-5 and 293 pounds, Kanu was the clear standout of Tuesday’s big man camp at Ohio State, moving fluidly through a wide variety of drills and dominating his one-on-one reps.
Even though he already had an offer before Tuesday’s camp, Kanu competed like a prospect who still had everything to prove, which Collier says Kanu has done at every stop on the tour.
“He’s a guy that loves football,” Collier told Eleven Warriors. “Every camp that we went to, he was the toughest guy and the most effort he gave, so I think that the sky’s the limit for the kid. You don’t find too many 6-5, 290-pound kids that could move with his agility and power.”
Kanu enjoyed working out with Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson so much that he went through another workout with Johnson individually before Wednesday’s camp, then stuck around to watch Johnson coach another group of defensive linemen through drills.
“He’s not somebody that just screams around. He really tries to teach you the moves, what you have to do, the details, how you get better,” Kanu said of Johnson. “That’s what I like.”
Kanu, who plans to announce his list of top schools on social media after this month’s camp tour, isn’t planning to announce a commitment until the All-American Bowl on Jan. 8. His extended stay in Columbus, though, can certainly be interpreted as a good sign for the Buckeyes, and when we asked him how much interest he had in Ohio State on Tuesday, he flashed a big smile and said, “A lot.”
“For us Europeans, we don’t really know these schools like Americans do, and now that you get into football, into the academics, you’re like, ‘That might be a good opportunity,’” Kanu said of Ohio State.
Öhrström, unlike Kanu, had to earn his offer from Ohio State on Tuesday, but it wasn’t a surprise that he got one after his workout. While the 2023 tight end doesn’t yet have a composite recruiting ranking on his 247Sports profile, he’s already picked up 11 offers during the DreamChasers Tour, also including Alabama, Florida State and LSU.
Possessing a prototypical combination of tight end size and speed at 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds with a 4.64-second 40-yard dash time, Öhrström impressed Ohio State’s coaching staff with his physical tools and natural pass-catching ability.
“He’s a guy that he’s probably one of the best 50/50 ball catchers that I’ve seen. Got big 10-inch hands, and a guy that’s just a matchup nightmare,” Collier said of Öhrström. “He’s a special talent.”
Öhrström hadn’t talked to Kevin Wilson before Tuesday’s camp, but by the time he left Ohio State on Wednesday, the Swedish tight end already felt like he had a connection with Ohio State’s offensive coordinator and tight ends coach.
“Coach Wilson took me on a drive through a little bit of Columbus earlier this morning and showed me the campus,” Öhrström said Wednesday. “I feel like I got a good connection with him, and it’s something I really want to continue developing.
“He seems to be a really good coach too. He wants his tight ends to be complete tight ends and not just blocking tight ends or receiving tight ends. He wants them to be the complete tight end, which I really like.”
Öhrström, who’s part of the American football development program at RIG Academy in Uppsala, Sweden, has plenty of time to make his college decision with two more years of high school to go, and he won’t start narrowing down his list of top schools until he returns home to his family in July. Like Kanu, though, there’s certainly reason to believe Ohio State will have a place on that list.
“I gotta say, this has been one of the best places I’ve been to so far,” Öhrström said of Ohio State. “I really like the hospitality everyone’s shown here, and the facilities and everything’s been really, really great.”
Kanu and Öhrström are in a rare position as European natives who are now being recruited to play for the Buckeyes. Ohio State has never had a player who came directly from Europe – former OSU kicker Sean Nuernberger was born in Germany, but moved to the United States in third grade – and when the DreamChasers Tour last camped at Ohio State two years ago, none of the 30 players who made the trip landed an offer.
Collier brought only five players to Ohio State this year, and he believed all five of them were worthy of offers from the Buckeyes. Swedish defensive tackle Thomas Collins, German defensive end/linebacker Aric Burton and Swedish offensive tackle Lucas Simmons left Ohio State without offers on Tuesday, but all of them have received offers from Power 5 schools, an indicator that top college programs are increasingly taking notice of top talent from overseas.
“We’ve had 88 kids that signed Division I scholarships the last four years and we have a lot more this year,” Collier said. “Everywhere we went to – Alabama, Georgia, Clemson – if you ask anybody from any of these camps, and now Ohio State, who were the best kids at your camp? And they’re gonna say the guys that had this (PPI) logo on there and international guys were the best kids.”
Despite that, European prospects still have to battle the perception that they haven’t faced much competition overseas, which can make colleges hesitant to offer them unless they really excel at camps. For prospects like Kanu and Öhrström, though, that gives them extra motivation to succeed at whatever colleges they end up at and represent their countries and continent in a positive way.
“I feel like I have a chip on my shoulder, and when everybody’s talking to other campers and people ask me where I’m from and I say Sweden, everybody just has pretty much the same reaction like, ‘Oh really, they play football over there?’” Öhrström said. “I feel like I’m putting on for all the players in Sweden … I’m very comfortable with representing the whole culture that we have over in Europe, and I’m trying to pave a path for all the guys coming after me.”