Home & Away

Michael Casagrande

Being a student athlete in college is more than a full-time job for almost every Topper football player. But for senior offensive guard Anthony Oakley, the full-time job includes overtime.

As the father of 2-year-old Anthony Oakley Jr., the 6-foot-4-inch, 295-pound lineman must divide his time between the gridiron, the classroom and the living room.

Oakley, a former all-Big Ten honoree, came to Western this semester only weeks before classes started after being dismissed from Gary DiNardo’s Indiana football squad.

Oakley took the same route fellow former Hoosier Jeremi Johnson took when he came to Western. Oakley chose the Toppers because offensive coordinator T.J. Weist was a former Indiana assistant coach and because of coach David Elson’s understanding of his complex living situation.

“He knew my situation, knew I had a family,” Oakley said. “He did the best for me and picked me up.”

Elson said football fathers are more responsible people because of their situation.

“I think it says a lot about somebody that they are taking responsibility and being accountable and I think that says something about them,” Elson said.

Elson was aware of Oakley’s family from the beginning, as wife Tolisha and Anthony Jr. accompanied Anthony on this recruiting trip to Western.

“It’s one of the things that I’ve been impressed with Anthony,” Elson said. “His family has been important to him, but at the same time he knows he is getting his education and he has a chance of playing football at another level after this. He is doing the things that help him be able to take care of them down the road.”

The move to Bowling Green was not easy for the young family, but Oakley is “used to it now.” Oakley said he has adjusted well at Western, so much that it feels like he has been here for his entire collegiate career.

Oakley has made an impact in his short career on the Hill.

His name may not show up on the stat sheet, but last week he was named Gateway Offensive Lineman of the Week.

With time at a premium, Oakley said planning each day was important to fitting in all of his daily activities.

“You’ve got to know how to schedule your whole day,” Oakley said. “You have to spend time with football, your family – your kid and your wife. The hardest part is finding time for all three of those.”

A typical day for Oakley begins at 8 am. He wakes up just to grab a quick breakfast before saying goodbye to his son and heading to class.

From 9:00 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oakley is in class, but his mind is on getting home around noon to pick up “Little O” for lunch at McDonald’s. The father-son duo then goes to the park for 15 minutes of bonding before Anthony Jr. goes to daycare and his father hits the weight room.

After an hour of lifting, Oakley attends meetings and practice for a few more hours.

Oakley said the Western coaches have been understanding when he needs to leave a meeting early to take care of his son.

“If we are in a meeting too long, they know I need to go pick up little Anthony at daycare,” Oakley said.

Thursday nights are family nights for the Oakleys. Anthony Sr. likes to take his wife and son out to eat at Mr. Gatti’s before the rigors of a busy football weekend become a reality the next morning.

Sunday is a day of rest for the men of the Oakley family. The two Anthonys spend the day together while Tolisha works a double shift at Lonestar Steakhouse.

Oakley knows that his sacrifices now will pay off for his family in the future. Quitting football is not an option for Oakley because of his goal of playing on Sundays in the NFL.

“Being married and having a kid is pushing me harder on the field so I can make it to that next level, so I can take care of my family,” he said. “I want my son to have the things that I didn’t have when I was young.”

In the NFL, Oakley would finally receive the long overtime pay he deserves.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]