Canadian Akheem Mesidor enters transfer portal, felt ‘unsafe’ at West Virginia in lead-up to announcement

Photo courtesy: West Virginia Athletics

Canadian defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor has announced his intention to transfer from the West Virginia University in a statement, saying he has felt “unsafe” on campus since rumours of his decision had begun to circulate.

Hours before the announcement became official, Mountaineers’ head coach Neal Brown called an impromptu press conference to reveal Mesidor’s privately shared intentions to the media. Brown told those in attendance that he was “surprised” by the decision, for which he could not understand the reasoning.

“Sometimes, you sense them coming, but not this one,” Brown revealed. “Akheem is a great player and a great kid. He was excelling in the classroom and on the football field, performing at a high rate academically. I love Akheem Mesidor, I love the kid. I’m not angry about it, I’m not upset. The best emotion I could use — and these are words that football coaches probably aren’t supposed to use — is hurt, or maybe just sad.”

In his own statement, Mesidor thanked Brown and the West Virginia staff, but cited a desire to find a better overall environment.

“After discussing it with my family, praying on it and following my heart, I have decided to officially enter my name into the transfer portal. Despite the recent media conference and public speculation, I have decided to transfer for my overall well-being and in pursuit of a better environment for my development on and off the field,” Mesidor wrote.

“These last 48 hours have been extremely challenging and at times I felt unsafe on campus. I pray that you can respect my decision and support me in this next chapter. I’m excited for more opportunities to become a better man, teammate, and player!”

A native of Ottawa, Ont., Mesidor joined the Mountaineers as a highly-coveted three-star recruit after finishing his high school career at Clearwater Academy in Florida. He made an instant impact in 2020, registering 32 total tackles and five sacks on his way to being named a freshman All-American by ESPN.

The six-foot-two, 272-pound defender’s production held stable with an increased role in his sophomore season, as he finished with 38 tackles and 4.5 sacks. That was enough to be selected as an All-Big 12 honourable mention by the conference’s coaches.

As a budding young star with up to three years of eligibility remaining, Mesidor appears to be the latest player to depart from West Virginia in search of increased Name, Image, and Likeness opportunities at more high-profile schools. While bemoaning the lost investment by he and his staff, Brown said that he believes the transfer is the wrong choice for the Canadian.

“I hurt for Akheem, too, because I don’t think this is a good long-term decision,” Brown said. “In today’s college football, that’s how it works. These men are surrounded by so much noise and pulled in so many directions that it’s hard to decipher from right and wrong. There are things in our profession that aren’t good and they shouldn’t be out there, but they are.”

Mesidor, however, feels that leaving Morgantown will be what’s best for his pocket book, now and in the long-term. Within 12 minutes of his announcement Thursday, the true junior publicly acknowledged an offer from the University of Southern California, led by new head coach Lincoln Riley.

It is unlikely to be the last offer that the Canadian receives, though he remains grateful for his first opportunity at West Virginia.

“Few kids get a chance to live out their dreams and statistically coming from Canada, the odds were against me,” he said in his statement. “I am incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to be a Mountaineer and it’s been a privilege to serve this University as a player.”

J.C. Abbott is a University of British Columbia graduate and high school football coach. He covers the CFL, B.C. Lions, CFL Draft and the three-down league's Global initiative.