The University of Louisville football team is unlikely to have its fate hang on the shoulders of Mario Agyen, a determined walk-on running back with a remarkable backstory. Agyen, a 5-foot-7, 190-pound Bronx native, joined the team last season after a tryout. Despite his position at the bottom of the 114-player roster, Agyen never forgets the journey he took to get there, leaving home with just a dufflebag of clothes, $1.98 in his bank account, and an unwavering determination to play college football.
Today, as he enjoys his breakfast each morning in the football players’ commissary, selecting his favorite egg-white omelet and an assortment of delicious sides, he reflects on how far he’s come. There were times when Agyen woke up starving, uncertain if he would have one frozen waffle or two for breakfast, or even where he would sleep at night.
He vividly recalls a moment when he was so hungry and broke that he texted a former teacher, pleading for a couple of pizzas to be delivered to him. He had traveled to Columbus, Ohio, after graduating from high school to fulfill his football dreams, only to discover that the prep school he had joined, Bishop Sycamore, was a fraud.
Over 135 players, including Agyen and his childhood friend Isaiah Miller, were duped into attending the school. It all unraveled on national television when the team was defeated by IMG Academy. Agyen is now the only known player from Bishop Sycamore to have played major college football. Agyen finds it incredible how far he has come in life despite the mental trauma he endured.
Walking around the University of Louisville campus, he reflects on the road he took and the adversity he faced. He acknowledges that the experience could have broken him, but he persevered. The person responsible for Bishop Sycamore’s demise, Roy Johnson, has left a trail of deception, unpaid debts, lawsuits, and shattered dreams.
The recent HBO documentary “BS High” and the newly released book “Friday Night Lies” shed light on Johnson’s misdeeds. Agyen and Miller appear in the documentary, sharing their experiences of being recruited from the Bronx and their subsequent struggles. After their ill-fated time at Christians of Faith Academy in 2018, where they lived in subpar conditions, the players returned home to rebuild their lives.
While some succumbed to life’s challenges, Agyen refused to give up. He had witnessed the harsh realities of his Bronx neighborhood—eviction notices, friends in jail or worse—and he knew football was his way out. Agyen, the son of Ghanaian immigrants, has always carried himself with determination, energy, and a fierce desire to prove himself.
Even as a young boy, he pestered his father to take him to the park to train. Football became his lifeline. His mother, a hardworking hotel housekeeper, fled Ghana due to political turmoil and emphasized education for her children. While Agyen initially cared more about being the center of attention than his studies, he eventually realized the importance of academics in achieving his goals.
Currently an honor roll student at Louisville, he is set to graduate in December with a sports management degree. Agyen had never been to Kentucky nor did he know anyone at the University of Louisville. He chose the school after Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, because the recruiting coordinator, Pete Nochta, took the time to respond to his emails.
Agyen tried out for the team but was initially told there were no available spots. Undeterred, he continued to train relentlessly, running sprints, lifting weights, and showcasing his skills to anyone who would watch. He even sent Nochta weekly emails to stay in touch. Finally, after a year of persistence, Agyen received a call from Nochta’s assistant, offering him a spot on the team.
He was overjoyed and accepted the opportunity without hesitation. College football tryouts are often mere formalities, with limited spots available for walk-ons. Nochta explained that most hopefuls are either undersized or lack the necessary skills to compete with D-I players. Agyen, however, defied the norm.
After impressing team members who observed his talent, he anxiously awaited news of his acceptance. When the call finally came, Agyen was ecstatic to join the University of Louisville football team and continue his journey toward success. HTML tags retained: … Reference