Peyton Bender can thank cashews for staying on his feet
It was the first time that I shook an athlete’s hand and wished within a minute that I had not. It’s not that I regretted meeting Hakeem Adeniji, rising sophomore on the Kansas football team. Quite the contrary. It’s just that I feared that him shaking my hand was going to make him ill right on the spot.
“I originally was going to go to Air Force, but my medical waiver got declined because of a cashew allergy so I couldn’t go at that point,” Adeniji said.
I immediately let him know with panic in my voice that I not even an hour earlier had just thrown down about five handfuls of raw organic cashews.
That wasn’t going to trigger a reaction, Adeniji assured me, and my blood pressure returned to normal. The last thing for which I wanted to be responsible was taking out the starting left tackle of the college football team I cover.
Adeniji said he discovered that he was allergic to cashews about five years ago when he swallowed, “less than a whole cashew, just a taste of it,” that was in some rice that his mother had brought home.
“I was feeling nauseous, throwing up,” Adeniji said. “It was not good at all.”
Neither was the news that he had flunked his physical because of a cashew allergy and would not be attending Air Force Academy. His dream of becoming a fighter pilot died with the news.
“I never knew it was going to be a deal-breaker like that,” said Adeniji, whose job it is to keep Peyton Bender on his feet.
Once Air Force no longer was an option, Adeniji said he was steered to Kansas by his high school coach, Jeff Jordan, who also was David Beaty’s Texas high school coach at Garland, where Adeniji attended. Jordan is now working as Beaty’s director of personnel, a job that has him scouring the country for prospects that he can pass along to assistant coaches who recruit since Jordan is restricted from going on the road.
Jordan facilitated a good fit for Adeniji and for Kansas.
Despite playing most of the season at 265 pounds Adeniji was the team’s starting left tackle as a true freshman, a rarity in college football and a sign of how quickly he learns and how desperate Kansas was for blockers last season.
He said he is nearing his desired 2018 weight of 300 pounds and doesn’t feel any less athletic carrying the extra weight. Adeniji and the rest of the Kansas football players begin spring practice Sunday.