From Ghana to Aggieville: Ekow Boye-Doe's unlikely journey to Kansas State football
The speedy senior from Lawrence High School, who was born in West Africa, is an unlikely Wildcat. He's playing the best football of his young career.
When Kofi Boye-Doe and his family emigrated from Ghana to the United States in 2003, there were two connections he would’ve never imagined making in his new country: American football and the Kansas State Wildcats.
But 19 years later, his youngest son, born in a country where soccer is practically a religion, has excelled on the gridiron. After being raised in Lawrence, on the University of Kansas doorstep, Ekow Boye-Doe is doing it in Manhattan.
Plus, the starting senior cornerback for the Wildcats is enjoying the best stretch of football in his life. One week after the Wildcats’ victory over the Jayhawks, their biggest rivals, K-State is playing a 12-0 team from Texas Christian University Saturday in the Big 12 Football Championship.
“In high school I went to the playoffs, first-round, and lost,” said Boye-Doe, a Lawrence High School graduate who was born in Accra, Ghana’s capital city. Boye-Doe was 3 years old when his family settled in Kansas.
“That was the closest to a championship I’ve ever gotten,” he said.
Since then, he has distinguished himself with blazing speed.
"I mean, he's fast," senior defensive nose guard Eli Huggins said.
“You know what type of mindset and work ethic he’s going to show up with every day,” said Huggins. “It’s nice to have a veteran guy like that you know you can count on back there.”
Boye-Doe’s consistent defensive play has earned him a 2022 All-Big 12 Honorable Mention.
‘I can run really fast.’
Kofi Boye-Doe said his son’s speed comes from his mother, Valentina, who was a high school middle-distance runner in Ghana. But neither track nor soccer caught on with Ekow.
“I’m not a fan of just running for fun, and the workouts honestly,” said Boye-Doe with a laugh. “Football was my best option. I can run really fast.”
Boye-Doe remembers playing soccer after learning to walk and run in Ghana, but he got attached to football after moving to the USA. In Lawrence, his best friend’s dad convinced the speedy youngster to play youth football.
“I stuck with it. I loved it,” he said.
At Lawrence High School, Boye-Doe hardly left the field, playing wide receiver on offense, and defensive back the rest of the time.
Kofi admits he wasn’t crazy at first about his son deviating from the path to KU, where Ekow’s older twin brothers graduated. Both became successful in their own fields, one as a resident doctor in Chicago and the other as an accountant.
“Sports wasn’t my first love,” Kofi said, recalling his hopes for his youngest son. “Go get some sociology or something, then go to law school — do something.”
“I wasn’t so much into that kind of sport,” said Kofi, who shied away from attending some of Ekow’s games early on because of how rough the gameplay was.
But all of that has changed.
“Of course,” laughed Kofi, who retired from the Johnson County, Kansas, Department of Corrections this year. He still teaches criminal justice at Johnson County Community College, and is a daily services coordinator for GoodLife Innovations, which provides residential and home care services for people with disabilities.
“During my childhood, growing up, my parents taught me to appreciate life and always support your children,” he said. “Initially, I didn’t like the sport, but I have no choice but to support him.”
“I’m a criminologist — I study crimes for a living. If you say you want him to be a (pro) cornerback, so be it,” said Kofi.
Ekow earned his social studies degree last spring, but he said he’d like to get a shot at playing in the NFL.
“I’ve also had dreams and aspirations of working in the real estate business,” he said.
‘A mind-boggling thing’
One other thing that’s changed is Kofi’s allegiance–from KU’s crimson and blue to K-State’s royal purple.
“I bleed purple,” he said.
KU did offer a football scholarship to his son, but only after the Wildcats had already done so. By then it was too late.
“It’s still a mind-boggling thing,” said Kofi, looking back on KU’s whiff.
The Jayhawks’ loss back then was K-State’s gain, and it has helped the Wildcats reach their first conference title game since 2003 — a pretty significant year for the Boye-Doe family, too.
Copyright 2022 KCUR 89.3