Collins Acheampong’s inspired journey from Ghana continues with Santa Margarita football
The senior defensive end committed to Michigan over the summer despite not playing football since his freshman year
A small medallion shining from Collins Acheampong’s necklace provides the first clue about what drives the Santa Margarita senior to succeed more than 7,000 miles away from home.
The golden pendant in the shape of Acheampong’s native Ghana hangs high on his chest but make no mistake, it is lifted by his heart.
Ghana reminds Acheampong of his mother Rita, who raised him after his father Robert died and she works about 70 hours a week in his homeland in West Africa.
“That’s what pushed me to come to America,” Acheampong said last month at the Edison passing tournament.
“Being the last child (in my family), you get to see (my mother) do this job just to put food on the table … pay bills, pay off loans. I just looked for an opportunity for a way out and God opened the door for me.”
Orange County became that next step just over three years ago as Acheampong arrived as a foreign exchange student. An amazing recruiting journey has unfolded since and will reach another milestone Friday.
Acheampong, a highly-recruited defensive end committed to Michigan, is expected to play in his first football game since 2019 as the No. 4 Eagles travel to play No. 13 San Juan Hills in a season-opening game.
“It’s a crazy story,” said Greg Biggins, a national recruiting analyst for 247Sports and part of the Bally Sports SoCal broadcast team for the game Friday night. “Not playing football since freshman year and having 40 (scholarship) offers is wild.”
Acheampong last suited up for a high school football game as a freshman at Fairmont Prep. The past two years, the 6-foot-7, 250-pound Acheampong only played basketball at the Anaheim school, which didn’t field a football team last season and won’t this fall.
He performed well in basketball — which he also played as a freshman — but decided football was his passion.
“I came here for basketball but when I got here, I fell in love with football,” Acheampong said.
In the spring, he posted his football and basketball highlights on his YouTube channel. The football clips showed an aggressive and long-armed freshman tossing down ballcarriers. His basketball video captured a junior sprinting past opponents on fast breaks for slam dunks.
College football programs across the country have taken notice. Rated a four-star recruit by 247Sports, Acheampong received numerous scholarship offers, including USC and UCLA. He took official recruiting trips to Michigan, LSU and Miami but committed last month to the Wolverines.
Acheampong acknowledges that his rise in football has been sudden but he welcomes the challenges.
“I know that I have the gifts,” he said. “I just have to put in the work.”
Acheampong’s trek toward college football has been aided by his commitment to academics. He maintains about a 3.7 grade-point average, speaks four languages and lists aerospace engineering as a potential major at Michigan.
He also credits his host family, Nancy and Stan Beatty, for their support.
“They’ve just poured themselves (into me),” he said. “They’re basically (like) my grandparents.”
Acheampong hopes to graduate early from high school and enroll at Michigan in January. His also aspires to visit his mother in Ghana.
“The hardest thing is my mother has never watched me do any sports,” he said. “It’s been hard but it’s something that’s always at the back of my mind, that (she is) why I do this.”
By Dan Albano
Thursday, August 18, 2022
The Orange County Register