ANNA — First-team all-district linebacker King Oke celebrated with teammates, family and coaches on Wednesday, March 7, at Anna High School as he signed a national letter of intent to play football for the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

“I’d just like to thank God for putting me in this position to do this,” Oke said, adding that he liked the “atmosphere, the people and the winning tradition” at UMHB.

Oke was the Coyotes’ leading tackler on last season’s 6-5 playoff team.

UMHB is located in Belton, Texas, near Austin. The NCAA Division III Crusaders, or “The Cru,” won their 15th American Southwest Conference championship last fall, finishing the regular season as the No. 1-ranked Div. III team in the country and playing in the national-title game. According to the school’s website, the Christian-based institution was chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas, making it “the oldest continuously-operating college in the state.”

“It’s been exciting to see him throughout his high school career, see him grow and develop,” Anna athletic director and head football coach Jason Heath said. “His senior year he took off and became the player and we always knew he could be for us. Going into the season, I wouldn’t have picked him to be our team-leader in tackles but he did a phenomenal job.”

Oke’s father and mother, Efe Oke and Precious Osadene Oke, were on-hand for their son’s big moment.

“I’m very excited for him and for this family for having accomplished this feat in his career,” Efe said. “We’re wishing him more success. He likes to strive for greatness and I like that. I’m very happy.” Efe added that he was pleased with the academics offered at UMHB.

“I’m very overwhelmed,” Precious said. “He worked so hard. We all worked so hard. I thank God we have this opportunity today to be here to congratulate him. … I’m glad this is the [school] he picked. I pray God will lead him to where he will be famous more than this. We celebrate with him in a big way.”

“I had plenty of role models,” Oke said. “The seniors my freshman year held me higher. [Anna defensive coordinator Noble] Polk put me in a whole different position when he got here by trying to upgrade my skills and talents and focus on what I needed to do to get better. And I had my teammates pushing me: Bubba Jones, Josiah [Ivery], Blake [Tredway], all the defense. All of them had my back every game. Justin McCullough, Keelan [Crosby] — all of them.”

Oke said a highlight of his Anna career was the Coyotes’ district win over Quinlan Ford last season, a team that had beaten them a year prior. Oke noted it was special because of how quickly Anna jumped on the Panthers, though battling injuries.

“We finished it,” Oke said. “We all had a nice game.”

Oke posted 85 tackles as a senior — with seven for a loss — and Polk recalled that Oke had about 17 stops in that Quinlan Ford game.

“For the past three years,” Polk said, “he’s hung in there and waited his turn behind two pretty good linebackers. He always did what he was asked to do and when he finally got his shot this year he took advantage of it. I couldn’t be more happy for the kid to finally get what he’s been after and have it all work out for him.”