JACKSON, Mich. — Olando Trader has had quite the journey.
The Jackson High School football player was born in Liberia and adopted by a couple in Jackson when he seven years old.
Now, he's on his way to the University of Iowa to play for the Hawkeyes.
Trader's mother Kristi said she always felt a nudge to adopt.
“I actually saw a show on Oprah one day about adopting and she shared some children that were adopted down in North Carolina, ironically, from Liberia,” she recalled. “I saw an ad on the back of a magazine and it was for the company we ended up going through so kind of just little pieces kept building up that I thought, you know, I really wanted to do this.”
She went through a company called American for African adoptions. When she saw Olando, “I said, ‘that’s the one.’
It took about four years from that point forward to complete the adoption process and move him to Jackson.
“I felt like if I was going to do this, it was going to be something that was large enough in my life that I was going to probably only be able to afford to do at one time and I really wanted to make a really large impact,” she said. “He went from an orphanage in Liberia to this really amazing success that he’s experiencing right now.”
Olando played more than football.
“I was in baseball, track, wrestling, soccer and basketball,” he said
Kristi has another son, Ethan. In age, they’re only four months apart. Kristi said both of her sons are athletic but it dawned on her one day that maybe Olando was a cut above the competition.
“Olando started really shining on flag football. Just crazy speeds and making crazy plays. We looked at him and we’re like, ‘Oh, we don’t think this is normal for his age.’ Ethan, our other son was already athletic. He was hanging around a really athletic crew and Olando was out training all of them,” she said.
He considers football to be his best sport. He was clocked running a 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, a speed similar to some NFL players including Arizona Cardinals linebacker Isaiah Simmons and Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathon Taylor.
In track, he ran 200 meters in 21.9 seconds.
The senior is just one of a handful of Jackson High School football players to receive a scholarship to play Division I football.
“It means a lot,” Olando said. “It means that I hope one day there’s more people to come out of Jackson High to go to a big Division I school. But, it puts a chip on my shoulder to motivate other people that anybody can do it if you just put your mind to it.”
The recruiting process was intense according to Kristi because, “you’re really trying to make the best decision for your child and the best decision for you and the best decision for the team.”
“It was fun though,” Olando said. “I remember I went on some visits those were fun. Then you have a coach calling you every day about something, these coaches telling you something different. You just go to go with what your heart says. Purdue came to school one day, Northwestern, Central Michigan, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Washington State.”
It came down to the Hawkeyes and Central Michigan University.
“We were certain he was going to CMU until the last weekend when he went to Iowa and that last weekend changed our minds. All of us were surprised coming home,” Kristi said.
Kristi believes Olando picked Iowa due to its program stability, the Children’s Hospital which peers over Kinnick Stadium and being able to sign a four-year National Letter of Intent compared to one-year agreements at most other schools.
“I think in Olando’s situation where he’s been in some ways abandoned by men in his life, it really speaks highly of a program to say these men are going to retire from that program. They’re not leaving in the next four or five years,” she said.
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, who is a Michigan native, has been the leader of its football program since 1999.
"The one main reason I really chose Iowa was because I felt like the coaches are not going anywhere,” Olando said. “They have had two coaches in the whole program [since 1979] so stability. Then I just felt the bond with Defensive Coordinator Phil Parker. We just felt close. The players were good. My host was a great person. It was just a place that I could see myself for the next four to five years.”
Olando is moving to Iowa City in June and plans to major in physical therapy.
As he looked around Withington Stadium’s Dungy Field he reflected on what he’ll miss.
“My friends of course. I’m going to miss just playing football on this field one last time. We didn’t get to do that in the playoffs. The last game on this field didn’t go as planned, but it’s just the memories that we make together I’m going to miss,” he said.
Trader is the first Jackson High School football player to receive a scholarship to continue playing football at a Big Ten school since Antonio Bass went to the University of Michigan in 2005. Corey Pryor was the last football player at Jackson High School to play Division I football. He walked on at Michigan State University in 2016.
Jackson Public Schools Athletic Director Jack Fairly said there have been a total of 22 Division I football players to come out of Jackson High School.
|Derrick Copeland||Western Michigan University||1986|
|Corey Pryor, Sr.||Michigan State University||1986|
|Darryl Stinson, Sr.||Central Michigan University||1989|
|Ron Armstrong||Michigan State University||1991|
|Danny Sumner||Central Michigan University||1992|
|Aaron Rulewicz||University of Toledo||1992|
|Clarence Love||University of Toledo||1993|
|Mike Scott||Eastern Michigan University||1993|
|Damien Hiram||Michigan State University||1993|
|Juan Braxton||Northern Illinois University||1994|
|JK Haehnle||Western Michigan University||1994|
|Kyle Sanders||Northwestern University||1995|
|Rush Bowers||Western Michigan University||1996|
|James Stanley||University of Toledo||1997|
|Bob Sanders||Air Force Academy||1997|
|Mike Holt||University of Hawaii||1999|
|Josh Blackman||University of Michigan||1999|
|Jeff Jansen||University of Michigan||2003|
|Antonio Bass||University of Michigan||2005|
|Darryl Stinson, Jr.||Central Michigan University||2008|
|Tyler Thomas||Eastern Michigan University||2008|
|Corey Pryor||Michigan State University||2016|
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