BY MASON PLUMMER | Lead Writer | Ball State Sports Link
The path to playing Division I football is never a simple process.
Having the talent to be in the top percentile of all football players in the country is one thing, then having the exposure and getting coaches to notice you is another thing entirely.
The recruiting process as a whole is imperfect and that becomes more and more evident each passing day as hidden gems fall through the cracks.
Chris Agyemang is one of those gems.
His presence on the field has been felt since high school at Proctor Academy in Andover, New Hampshire.
There, Agyemang was two-time team captain, first team all-state and was named New Hampshire’s Defensive Player of the Year by USA Today.
Until this past year, Agyemang attended Sacred Heart University, a small NCAA Division I FCS school located in Fairfield, Connecticut, where he was a dominant force at multiple positions along the defensive line for the Pioneers.
In 33 career games at SHU, Agyemang tallied 105 tackles, 14 sacks, 26 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
In 2019, he tallied 41 of his career tackles and 5.5 sacks a game, which is when Agyemang realized he could play at a higher level and decided to transfer.
Ball State was the first FBS team to reach out to the then junior from Billerica, Massachusetts, which meant the world to him.
“For my decision, it came down to my relationships with the players and coaches at Ball State, ” Agyemang said. “When I had my visit here, I felt very welcomed. I felt like I could trust what the coaches were telling me.”
Toledo, Central Michigan also offered Agyemang early on, along with FCS squads New Hampshire, Albany, Richmond, Villanova and Delaware.
Agyemang was a two-time All-NEC First Team selection at Sacred Heart, and he was accomplished enough to earn a spot on Phil Steele’s Preseason All-MAC Third Team without having played a down in the league.
Losing Agyemang was something the coaching staff at Sacred Heart never anticipated.
He was a leader and role model for a Pioneer football team that needed talent like him to be able to compete and make a name for itself on the Division I scale.
The coaches were obviously not thrilled with Agyemang’s decision to transfer when he told them, but ultimately knew it was best for him.
“It’s a big loss for us,” said Agyemang’s head coach at Sacred Heart, Mark Nofri. “You always want a player of his caliber around for as long as you can. You redshirt guys as freshmen thinking they will be here for their fifth year, and when they are not it hurts.”
Despite heavy deliberation, when it came down to decision time, Agyemang knew what he wanted to do. He loved what the coaching staff at Ball State was pitching him and knew he wanted to be a Cardinal, but there was a huge roadblock in the way — distance.
Agyemang has always been a family-first type of person and while transferring to Ball State would mean he would play football at a much higher level and have a better chance to be noticed by NFL scouts, it would mean moving across the country.
Agyemang would be 700 miles away from his family, the school he knows and loves, and everything he has been familiar with in this life.
“It was a really tough decision for me at first to leave Sacred Heart and transfer,” Agyemang said. “I had no complaints there and I left on great terms.”
Agyemang enters Ball State this year as a graduate transfer with one year of eligibility left to play for the Cardinals.
The NCAA has granted all athletes with an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 disrupting athletics seasons, but Agyemang has not made a decision regarding his future at Ball State just yet.
“You want to bring in guys who are the right fit for our locker room,” Ball State defensive coordinator Tyler Stockton said. “You want to bring a guy in who really cares about what we’re doing here at Ball State.”
In a year clouded with the pandemic, Agyemang found himself in a position different from most. He was transferring to a school where he did not know a soul, and was unsure if he would even be able to play football which is what he came to Ball State to do.
At the time of Agyemang announcing his commitment to Ball State in July, the Mid-American Conference had no plans to have a football season in the fall.
“It’s been different for sure,” Agyemang said of his transition to Ball State. “Coming from the east coast to Ball State and being in the midwest for the first time has been different. Everyone has been very welcoming to me here and I feel lucky to be here.”
He has managed to find positivity in his situation though and with the help of his teammates and other players and coaches in the MAC, they rallied to get the leaders of the conference to overturn the initial decision to delay the football season into the spring.
“The biggest thing that excites us about Chris is the athleticism and size that he can add to that defensive line room,” Stockton said. “He really fills a big hole for us up front.”
This season is unlike most, with just four guaranteed games left for the Cardinals, but Agyemang is poised and determined to show the country he is a hidden gem that should have never been passed up on in the first place.
“This 2020 Ball State team can really be something special, that’s why I came here,” Agyemang said. “This group of seniors are great. I just want to come in and help this team in any way I can. I am going to do the right things on and off the field and be an example for the younger guys here.”
Agyemang and the Cardinals continue their drive for five MAC West wins Nov. 18 with Northern Illinois in town.
Sports Link GameDay LIVE starts at 6p, followed the by the game on ESPNews and SL Digital.