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Sports / Recreation

CSU linebacker Mike Orakpo stands out on, off field

November 11, 2011
By Tony Phifer

The Coca-Cola Company sponsors one of 50 Legacy Scholarships for CSU student-athletes. Sophomore linebacker Mike Orakpo is thankful for the opportunity provided by his Coke-sponsored Legacy Scholarship.

CSU linebacker Mike Orakpo leads the Rams in tackles and is a dedicated community volunteer.Mike Orapko is anything but your typical college linebacker.

Yes, the Colorado State University sophomore leads the Rams with 64 tackles. And yes, he already has established a reputation for making big plays for the Rams.

But Orakpo, a Legacy Scholar sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company, is so much more.

The 6-foot-1, 213-pound outside linebacker from Houston is a serious student determined to earn his degree in business. He’s also a passionate volunteer who loves working with young kids in the Fort Collins community.

“I always look forward to spending time with little kids,” Orakpo said. “We’re always really busy with football and academics, but volunteering is something I really look forward to.”

Orakpo has spent time at the Boys and Girls Club in nearby Wellington, and helps kids with math and other subjects while volunteering at area elementary schools. He doesn’t limit his volunteer work, though, to just kids. He also gets a kick out of spending time with the elderly at a local rehabilitation center.

Big brother sets the standard

He said he learned from his brother, Brian, the importance of giving back to the community. Brian Orakpo, a former All-American defensive end from the University of Texas, is a star linebacker for the NFL’s Washington Redskins.

“When I talk about my brother being my role model, it has nothing to do with football,” Mike Orakpo said. “(Brian) has always taken the right path, always done the right thing. He’s the kind of man I want to be.”

Feel-good story

Orakpo was particularly pleased recently when he met a young boy while visiting Bacon Elementary School in Fort Collins. The third-grader is battling leukemia, and has had little to smile about since the start of the school year.

“When I first met him he was really down, but I loved being around him,” he said. “The teacher told me later that it was the most (the boy) had smiled all year. That made me feel really good.”

Orakpo said he wanted to spend time with the boy because his brother is a dedicated volunteer for the Leukemia Society and hosts the annual Leukemia Golf Classic, a benefit tournament in the Washington, D.C. area.

Academics matter

Even though his brother has become one of the rising stars in the NFL, Orakpo recognizes good bloodlines do not guarantee an NFL career. Academics, he said, offer a more reliable path to success.

“One of my goals is to reach my full potential academically,” he said. “My goal down the line is to become an entrepreneur, and hopefully open my own business. The best way to do to that is through education and earning my degree.

“It really motivates me knowing that Coca-Cola has invested in my education. This scholarship is helping me reach my full potential as a student and football player.”

About the Legacy Scholars program: More than 50 CSU athletes are part of the Legacy Scholars program. Businesses or individual donors commit to providing $10,000 per year for five years to fund a student-athlete’s scholarship. Athletes are chosen by coaches and CSU athletic department personnel based on their commitment to academics, community service and athletic excellence.

About the Coca-Cola-CSU strategic partnership: The Coca-Cola Company is one of the world’s most recognized brands, doing business in more than 200 countries and with 15 product brands that are worth more than $1 billion. In June, CSU announced a multi-million dollar, 10-year strategic partnership with Coca-Cola, one of the most comprehensive and innovative relationships of its kind. The investments in the university provide for funding of student scholarships and internships, support of academic programs, and access to world-wide marketing opportunities.

About Muhtar Kent’s visit: As part of a unique and evolving partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, CSU is proud to host Muhtar Kent, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Coca-Cola Company, at noon Nov. 16 at CSU's Lory Student Center Main Ballroom. Mr. Kent will speak about shared values for a sustainable future.