Former U Sports sprinter Praise Olatoke signs with Los Angeles Chargers

Photo courtesy: Trinity Western Athletics

Another former U Sports athlete is headed to the NFL — just not one that ever played football in Canada.

On Friday, the Los Angeles Chargers signed former Trinity Western University sprinter Praise Olatoke to their roster as a wide receiver. The Nigerian-born, Scottish-raised speedster took part in the NFL’s International Player Pathway Program this offseason and is eligible for a practice roster exemption in 2024.

The native of Glasgow, who was named the U20 Scottish Athlete of the Year in 2019, ran track for the Christian university in Langley, B.C. for two seasons. In March 2020, Olatoke won the silver medal in the 60 metres at the U Sports Championships in Edmonton, clocking a school-record time of 6.75 seconds. He lost to Guelph’s Andre Azonwanna by just 0.006 seconds

The six-foot-two, 205-pound runner transferred to Ohio State University the following year, earning first-team All-Big Ten honours during the 2022 outdoor track and field season. He ran a personal-best 10.27-second 100-metre dash at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships that year.

Olatoke played club football for Ohio State in 2022, an extracurricular team for students which is separate from the NCAA varsity squad. He caught seven passes for 231 yards and four touchdowns in his lone season, before catching the attention of the IPP training program. He reportedly ran a 4.36 forty-yard dash at his pro day this offseason and landed a mini-camp tryout with Los Angeles, which resulted in him being signed.

The NFL recently changed the rules for its International Player Pathway Program, allowing all 32 teams to carry an additional practice roster spot for an international athlete which they can scout and recruit independently for the first time. The Chargers have also brought back their IPP athlete from last season, Nigerian defensive lineman Basil ‘C.J.’ Okoye, to compete for the exemption.

Olatoke is the second U Sports alumni on the Chargers roster, joining former University of Calgary cornerback Deane Leonard. The team finished 5-12 last season.