IOWA CITY, Iowa – Under normal circumstances, Iowa defensive lineman Faith Ekakitie would have talked almost exclusively about football at media day on Saturday.
His situation was anything but normal, though, in the wake of a terrifying incident involving the Iowa City police.
“Things don’t always go the way you want them to,” Ekakitie said to reporters on Saturday. “You just have to roll with it.”
Ekakitie spoke with reporters for the first time since he posted on Facebook in late July about a recent encounter with several Iowa City police officers.
Police were searching at the time for a bank robbery suspect who was described as a large black male wearing all black with something on the top of his head.
That is when police crossed paths with the 6-foot-3, 290-pound Ekakitie, who had just arrived at an Iowa City park to play the popular mobile gaming app Pokeman Go. Adding to the confusion is that Ekakitie also was dressed in all black and had something on his head.
What could have been a tragic case of mistaken identity instead ended peacefully as both sides stayed calm while police gathered information. The incident happened in the wake of several recent fatal shootings of black men by officers in other states.
Ekakitie was convinced by some friends to go public with his story. The senior from Brampton, Ontario said it took him about 10 minutes to write a detailed account of the incident, which he then he posted on his Facebook page.
Within hours, his story had gone viral on social media.
“It was probably overwhelming the first couple of days,” Ekakitie said of the reaction to his Facebook post. “So that would have been like a week later and then I thought it would kind of blow over at that point. And it didn’t.
“It kind of kept snowballing and I was like, `wow, this is not what I expected at all.’ But at the same time, it kind of proved to me the power of social media.”
Ekakitie said he was contacted by people he doesn’t know who just felt a need to reach out to him. He also was contacted by several police officers from outside of Iowa City who thanked him for responding the right way to the circumstances.
“I mean, obviously, a lot of people that I know personally reached out,” Ekakitie said. “But there was a surprising number of people that I didn’t know personally saying thank you and that they were glad that I’m safe.”
Ekakitie praised the Iowa City police officers on Facebook for handling his situation with professionalism and with care.
He also spoke highly on Saturday about living in Iowa City as a student-athlete. Ekakitie said it’s different than his hometown in Canada.
“Iowa City is unlike anywhere else,” Ekakitie said. “We didn’t have a giant university that kind of runs the economy the way Iowa City does. It’s different in that aspect, but I think it brings a lot of diversity to Iowa City, having the university here.
“It’s diverse. You have a lot of smart people here. As far as I’m concerned, the economy here is booming. There isn’t really a shortage of jobs ever. As a college student, I think it’s great to live here. As a football player, I think it’s a great city. If I was to start a family here, I wouldn’t hesitate to start a family here, either.”
Ekakitie is expected to play a key role on the defensive line as a senior this season. He recovered a fumble near the Iowa end zone that helped to secure a 10-6 victory at Wisconsin last season.
As for life after football, Ekakitie said he would like to be a teacher and a coach.
“Right now, the focus is football,” Ekakitie said. “The coaches have told me a lot of times that if you’re looking for a job, being a student-athlete at a major university, having a degree and finding a job will take care of itself.
“That, and I think God does have a plan for me. So I’m going to leave it in his hands. Obviously, I have to do a lot of the work. But I’m not too worried about it right now.”
Ekakitie said he hasn’t talked with his Iowa teammates and coaches very much about the incident with police. He posted his feelings on Facebook and that was it.
"There wasn’t anything else I had to say about it," he said. "I wasn’t angry about the situation. I wasn’t going to go any further about it."
Ekakitie agreed when asked by a reporter that his status as a Big Ten football player probably helped the story gain publicity.
"Unfortunately, but yeah, that is the reality," Ekakitie said.