Fitting Right In

Transfer Chris Oladokun solves Jacks’ QB questions

Sydney Smith, Sports Reporter (She/Her)

South Dakota State’s football team faced some quarterback concerns heading into the summer after losing their starter Mark Gronowski for the fall season in the FCS national championship game last May.

That was until Chris Oladokun arrived in Brookings.

The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder was looking for a new home after previous stints at South Florida and Samford, and he was determined to find a place that fit his wish list. 

Fast-forward a few months, and the sixth-year senior has found that fit. He has looked plenty comfortable at the controls, leading the Jackrabbits to an impressive 2-0 start this season.

“I was really just looking for a place that first of all, was a winning program with good people, but obviously athletically and academically knew what I was trying to do and needed a quarterback,” Oladokun said. “South Dakota State called me, and I had a talk with Coach (Zach) Lujan and all the other coaches, and it was just a perfect fit.” 

Lujan, the team’s quarterbacks coach, said Oladokun appeared on their radar at the end of the spring season when they were trying to figure out how to fill the newly open quarterback position after Gronowski went down against Sam Houston. 

The Jacks wanted a strong leader with good character, Lujan said. Plus, the candidate needed key physical tools and the ability to perform at a high level under stress.

“We wanted somebody who can step into the offense right away and hopefully allow us to not take a step back as an offense,” Lujan said. “He’s done a great job of being able to step in right away and be a leader for our entire football program.”

Oladokun arrived in Brookings in June and quickly began working toward getting along with his new teammates. 

“Everyone was super welcoming,” he said. “I could tell they were a successful program, and on my first day here, everyone was so open to helping me move in. They were making sure they were involving me, and it was like a family atmosphere.” 

Lujan said Oladokun’s charisma and infectious personality helped break the ice. He was well-liked by his teammates right away. 

“Where he did a good job was he just put his head down and went to work, and I think he earned the respect of a lot of his teammates and a lot of the older guys right away …,” Lujan said. “He led by example while building those relationships.”

The summer allowed the incoming quarterback to prove what a team player he is and show how much he wanted the starting job.

“I spent the whole offseason putting my head down and working and letting the guys know that I was a leader while getting to know those guys on a personal level,” Oladokun said. “When camp came, it was really just putting all that work in and putting it on the field and showing everyone that I should be the starting guy.”

One week before SDSU’s first game at Colorado State, Oladokun was named the Jackrabbit starting quarterback. Judging by early results, it was the right choice.

Oladokun completed 18 of 28 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns, and he rushed twice for 19 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown, in his Jackrabbit debut, a win over FBS opponent Colorado State Sept. 3.

His performance, which happened to be on his 24th birthday, earned him the honor of being named co-Missouri Valley Football Conference Newcomer of the Week.

The following week, Oladokun completed 12 of 14 passes for 171 yards and four touchdowns in the Jacks’ dominant home-opening win over Lindenwood  Sept. 11.

The stats have proven the success of the Tampa, Florida native, and his teammates have been impressed.

“I think he’s gone above and beyond the expectations that people have set for him,” said junior wide receiver Jaxon Janke. “I thought that opening the season against Colorado State, he played a heck of a game; the big lights didn’t affect him. And in the home opener, he still took care of business and took it as the next game, and not really just a game against a Division II school.”

Lujan said that so far, Oladokun has played at a high level. He will get his first crack at a Missouri Valley opponent Saturday as the Jackrabbits travel to Indiana State. Then, they will return home Oct. 2 to face off against Dixie State at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.

 “The sky’s the limit with him, and if he continues to grow and continues to go the way he is, then I’m excited to see where this season takes us and where his football career takes him after that,” Lujan said.

Despite winning the first two games in dominating fashion, Oladokun says he and the team are taking the season “one game at a time.”

“We’re not really trying to look too far ahead, because once you do, you start to really forget about the little things,” Oladokun said. “We want to take it one day at a time, and I think that’s what we’re doing. If we can go 1-0 every Friday or Saturday we play, I think we’ll like the results as the season goes on.”