Hero Kanu remembers kicking a soccer ball around on a field a few years ago in his hometown of Geltendorf, a small town in Germany, right before he noticed his friend Phillip throwing a football around.
“I was like, ‘OK, let me try that too,’” Kanu told Eleven Warriors.
Kanu, who had known nothing but soccer for seven years prior, got his introduction to football by participating in a simple game of catch. It wasn’t long after that Philip realized he was a natural at the sport.
“He said, there’s no way I’m not going to be a football player,” Kanu said.
Kanu began to learn more about the game from watching both college and professional football. It provided something his first love soccer could not: contact, and lots of it. The highly-touted 2022 defensive tackle recruit certainly was built for it, standing at 6-foot-5 and 293 pounds.
“If you look at me on the sidelines, you’re going to see me with my bare head, headbutting someone with a helmet on,” Kanu said. “I love the contact of the sport.”
Philip introduced him to Cleveland native Brandon Collier, the founder of Premier Prospects International, a program that helps European teenagers get noticed to play American football.
He thrived at various international camps, and realized he had a path to success in football. Instantly, he found himself facing a dilemma. Would he stick with his first love, soccer, or dedicate his focus to football in hopes of first earning a scholarship and later a possible pathway to the NFL draft?
“I would say I was pretty good at (soccer),” Kanu said. “But for the long term, watching college football and the NFL, I might have a better chance at football than I have in soccer. Every young man’s dream I would say is being a professional athlete, being an astronaut or being a police officer, everybody has these dreams. For me, it was being a professional athlete.”
Kanu and his family made a difficult decision to move to California to attend Santa Margarita Catholic High School when Kanu was 16. While he’s been playing football full-time for just more than two years, Kanu has blossomed as a recruit, earning a four-star ranking and becoming the 84th-best prospect in the country, per 247Sports’ composite rankings.
“I would say that’s a pretty good feeling,” Kanu said of his fast success playing football. “If you’re good at something, you’re more likely to keep playing it. That’s one reason why I keep playing the sport.”
Kanu is living up to his recruiting billing in his senior season at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, accumulating a team-high seven tackles for loss in four games, including 1.5 sacks.
Ohio State is well aware of Kanu’s talent and is making the highly-touted defensive lineman one of its top priorities for the 2022 class. Kanu first visited the Buckeyes on June 8 as part of the PPI DreamChasers Tour. Well, let’s back up a bit. Kanu visited pretty much everywhere over a 17-day period.
Traveling in a van with what Kanu described as “a bunch of sweaty dudes,” Kanu spent his June visiting Georgia, then Clemson, then back to Georgia, then Alabama, then Florida State, then Marshall, then West Virginia, then Ohio State, then LSU, then Texas A&M, then Oklahoma, then TCU, then Texas, then Houston, then Texas A&M again, then back to Alabama, then Atlanta to fly home. That sentence was exhausting to type. It was more tiring living that journey.
“It was fun but it was a grind, I’m telling you that,” Kanu said.
Going back to the June 8 camp with Ohio State, Kanu was impressed enough with the Buckeyes that he decided to break off from the rest of the group and stay an extra day in Columbus to go through another workout with defensive line coach Larry Johnson.
“One reason (I stayed longer) was how often do I get the chance to go to Columbus, Ohio and see coaches in person?,” Kanu said. “The other thing was, I was working out on the eighth of June and with coach Johnson, I really learned a lot. I wanted to stay and learn some more. The next morning we had another full hour workout.”
You’ve read many articles on this site and others that centered around defensive line recruits lauding Johnson. Well, this article is no different. Even from a recruit born in Germany.
“I would say he’s really a person when it stands out when it comes to coaching,” Kanu said. “He’s like a father figure, that’s the role he wants to play. His personality is really calm and he knows what he’s talking about. When he analyzes something I did in a practice, I see what he means. Nowadays, people always ask ‘Why do we have to do this drill, why does it help us?’ He’s really good at answering those questions and showing us examples.”
Kanu visited OSU again for the Buckeye Bash & BBQ on July 29. The decision to attend was made just one day before, last-minute, while he was nearing the end of a visit at Notre Dame.
“I think we left at 7 or 8 p.m., drove all the way to Columbus and the next day we woke up at 7 a.m. to go to the university to go work out and get to know everybody,” Kanu said. “So I actually met a lot of recruits, which was really nice. We exchanged opinions and what everybody liked. We played darts and basketball, it was really fun.”
Kanu does not plan to announce a commitment until Jan. 8 when he plays at the All-American Bowl. There is plenty of competition for his services after he’s accumulated 26 Division I offers, including the likes of Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia and Notre Dame. Kanu has set his official visit schedule for the fall that includes Alabama on Oct. 2, Oklahoma on Oct. 16, Notre Dame on Oct. 23, Ohio State on Oct. 30 and Georgia on Nov. 6.
“I really look forward to seeing the atmosphere, the culture, how do people like the football players, how big is it?” Kanu said of his visits. “How much is it worth to them, you know? I just want to see the real coaching and real true defense they play. That’s what I’m looking forward to seeing.”