Femi. Moses. Oluwafemi.
Over the course of a lifetime, Oluwafemi Moses Oladejo has gone by many names: In middle school it was Moses, then Femi freshman year of college. It wasn’t until this past year that he began going by his full name: Oluwafemi.
However, the story of Oladejo’s name will have to wait. First, it is worth understanding the story of his character, the story of people and qualities that remain inextricable to Oladejo despite whatever is going on in his life.
Oladejo recalls that he spent much of his time growing up around older kids, whether it was his brother or older guys at school, he was always being pushed to become a better version of himself.
“I always hung around people who were older,” Oladejo said. “My older brother, for instance, he’s 10 years older than me and set a great foundation for me (to) actually (separate) myself, doing extra work.”
And that’s exactly what Oladejo did, both in terms of his everyday life and his soon-approaching football career.
Interestingly, his love for sports first blossomed during elementary school basketball, particularly playing on the “mini-hoops” with friends he still calls friends today. Basketball at recess was where it all started, but by the age of 10 he began football and was on his way to becoming the athlete he is today.
At the age of 10 he may not have known his potential. But during his freshman year of high school, Oladejo really discovered his drive for college football.
“I had the opportunity to meet older guys who were doing it (football) at a higher level and I got to work out with them when I was younger, so it just inspired me and let me know that I could do it, too,” Oladejo said.
And then came freshman year at Cal –– the place where he took football to a higher level. As a 17-year-old freshman, Oladejo was younger than most on the field, but that was something he was used to. Contributing 36 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two quarterback hurries, the freshman surmounted himself as a star on the rise, leading all freshmen in tackles and being one of four true freshmen to start.
However, the biggest win in his eyes was his game last year at USC.
“I had probably my best play of college football (so far),” Oladejo said. “That was the first game my mom went to, so that was my year. I have a video, but we were dancing on the field after we won, so it was just a good time.”
After Oladejo’s parents split when he was around 9, he spent some time in Houston, Texas, with his father before relocating to Elk Grove, California, to live with his mother. From there, his mom largely took the helm, and Oladejo credits a large part of who he is to her teachings. When asked who he would dedicate his playing, or even this story to, he had two answers: First, his mother.
“I still love my dad, I talk to him everyday, but my mom, she really built a great foundation in me,” Oladejo said. “She always told me when I was younger: The things you’re doing now, you’ll see them in the future, why I’m making you do them. And I started seeing them when I got to college, so definitely respect her, love her. She deserves it all.”
However, Oladejo’s family and friends weren’t the only influences contributing to the story of his character. From a young age, he considered himself a believer, and his faith has only grown since then.
Remember, there were two answers to the question of whom he dedicates his playing to. The second belongs to Matthew Rodriguez, a leader of the campus ministry.
“He’s helped me so much, just grow up mentally, physically, spiritually,” Oladejo said. “He gives me advice with football, my relationship with God, my budget, finance … I haven’t even known him for that long, but I could confidently say that I have his back and he has my back for sure.”
The campus ministry is a large part of Oladejo’s identity, and it is something that has transcended across all aspects of his life. He attributes the way he carries himself to God — his respect and love towards others, his actions and hard work.
His faith is infused in his character, has born friendships and community and has even found its way onto the field. Most recently, his faith has altered one of the most intrinsic parts of a person’s identity: his name.
“My full name is Oluwafemi Moses Oladejo, and Oluwafemi means ‘God loves me,’ ” Oladejo said. “A couple months ago, as I started to grow my relationship with God, I (decided that) I want to actually express my full name because it means God loves me, so I started going by Oluwafemi. In a way I was scared of it, or not scared of it, but kind of ashamed because I really did not like when people consistently asked me how to say it. Now, in a sense, I take pride in it, so that’s why I go by Oluwafemi now.”
Oladejo’s relationship with God is of utmost importance to him, and it remains central to the lives of many of his teammates as well. Friend, fellow teammate and believer Isaiah Young actually first introduced Oladejo to the campus ministry, and has witnessed firsthand the impact of faith on Oladejo’s character and community.
“What makes him unique is that (Oladejo) is confident. His confidence in what God has called him to be, who he is and his identity in God, and I think that’s something that is very respectable,” Young said.
Young called Oladejo a natural-born leader, someone who is very passionate about the things he cares about — “a man of his word.”
Oladejo is a man of many names and many values. This “lion” has grown and come far since elementary school basketball. However, a lot hasn’t changed since then — the values he once held still hold today.
“My community, God, my family, my friends –– just knowing that the hard work I’ve put in throughout the years,” Oladejo said. “I didn’t come here just to be on the sidelines or just to live the ‘college experience,’ I actually just wanted to show my talents on the field that God has given me.”
And Oladejo has certainly demonstrated those talents, putting in the extra “dark hours” and playing far from the sidelines.
Oladejo is a man of his own making, and when asked to offer one piece of advice to readers, he encouraged the following:
“Don’t follow the crowd. Definitely don’t follow the crowd — do what you think is best for you. There’s always going to be people who agree with you, who disagree with you, mainly more people that disagree with you,” Oladejo said. “Just to be a (wo)man of good character, to continuously keep growing in everything. Don’t ever get satisfied, don’t get complacent and yeah, that’s probably my main message: Don’t follow the crowd.”