Irish-Nigerian DL Lopez Sanusi chose Boise State because it felt like a family

Boise State recruit Lopez Sanusi chose 'a community' (1:30)

Irish-Nigerian DL Sanusi Lopez says he felt at home as soon as he visited Boise State, which is why he chose them over the likes of Georgia State and Buffalo. (1:30)

When Irish-Nigerian lineman Lopez Sanusi visited Boise State Broncos from the NFL Academy, watched them beat New Mexico 42-14 and heard the roar of the crowd of 34,076, he felt he had no choice but to commit.

Sanusi, who started playing American football seriously two years ago with Northern Ireland's Belfast Trojans, turned down offers from Georgia State, Buffalo and Campbell to join the Mountain West Conference Championship finalists.

"I feel like when I went there for my visit, it was home... Once I got there, I saw the community. I saw how the community really backed their football players. Just a little game against New Mexico, [34,076] people came out just to support the football players," Sanusi told ESPN.

"It really touched me, because I would really love to go to a place where the community supports me and the community loves me. At Boise State, it was more the community that dragged me to go there [than anything else]."

Sanusi, who was born in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, moved around plenty as a child, spending parts of his schooling in the United States and Nigeria.

He explained how his short yet well-travelled life unfolded: "My mum passed away when I was young in Ireland then my dad got remarried in America then that's why I moved there. I did elementary and middle school in America, then from America to Nigeria to finish up high school.

"My dad wanted me to learn more about my culture, roots and really understand where my family is from. Which was probably the best decision as it turned me into the man I am today."

Although he was introduced to American football in the US, it was only when he went to Northern Ireland after high school and began playing for the Trojans that he developed serious Division I ambitions, which he chased by moving to England to join the NFL Academy, headquartered in Loughborough.

Sanusi recalled: "When I joined the Trojans, I didn't even know about the NFL Academy. My goal has always been Division I, so when I was at the Trojans, I used to have a guy come out and record my games.

"Then one day I found out about the academy and thought, 'Wow. There is somewhere to go in Europe that can help me develop before Division I or Division II.'"

At the Academy, he learned how to channel the aggressive side of his game and become a menace to quarterbacks, whereas before he had felt less willing to let loose completely.

"They just helped me become a better defensive lineman and just showed me what it takes to be a dog. You can play football just to play football, but there's dogs. That's what the academy taught me - how to embrace my inner dog," he explained.

According to Chase Baker, a former defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings who came out of Boise State, Sanusi's doggedness will be stretched to the limit in a demanding, but rewarding environment.

"They're going to squeeze everything that can get out of him. We have a history of growing great defensive lineman. I think he's going to go there and have a great college experience," said Baker, who works as a linebackers coach for the NFL Academy.

"It's very much a college town, so he's going to have a city that supports him and a program that's going to push him to the best of his ability, so I'm excited to see how his career plays out."

Sanusi gave props to Nigeria, where he spent four years of his childhood, for the growth of American football there. Many of his family members have not quite grasped the enormity of his progress in the game, although they are always willing to support, but it is the messages he gets from strangers which show him just how far the sport has come.

"I feel like it is growing a lot, because there are actually kids from Nigeria who have messaged me on Instagram and asked me for advice about the game of American football. I feel like not even just in Nigeria - in Africa in general - the knowledge of American football has been growing," he said.

"We have, obviously, the likes of Prince Tega Wanogho and Efe Obada in the NFL who are paving the way for African kids to know that you can make it out of there and be successful in American football."

Sanusi is just the latest Nigerian-heritage player to commit to College Football, with Timi Oke, who also comes out of the UK's NFL Academy, committing to Northwestern this week.