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National Signing Day: Local Indiana recruit is heir to African ruler

POSTED: February 17, 2008 5:05 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS | The Times/

Gainesville senior Tyler Adetona is the sole male heir to the ruler of Ijebu Ode, a city of 420,000 in southwestern Nigeria. Adetona has verbally committed to formally accept a football scholarship from Indiana University today.

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Gainesville High senior Tyler Adetona always knew his family background was quite unique, but a trip to Texas for a family funeral last summer made everything much more vivid.

Tyler Moshoodibabatunde Adetona, a star football player who will sign his national letter of intent with Indiana University today, is an African prince.

Adetona says he was about 5-years-old when his mother Linda Earls told him about his special family lineage in the Ijebu tribe of Southern Nigeria.

"I really didn’t pay any attention to it at the time," Adetona said.

When younger, Adetona says it was not a big focus between him and his mother.

"I remember when I was younger, my mom would just say, ‘I think a prince should keep his room clean.’"

That all changed when he traveled to Texas last June for the funeral of his late aunt Adedeyo Ogunseye, who died at 38 following complications from surgery, Earls said. At the funeral, Adetona had family giving him insight into his family history. Adetona saw his father Juwon Adetona, who was born in England, and who he believes works in the oil industry in Nigeria.

Adetona is still learning every day about his paternal side of the family. This Gainesville High standout was born and raised right here in Gainesville and has never traveled to Africa.

"Tyler was very close to his aunt," Earls said. "He used to go and stay with her during the summer when he was younger."

Simply put, Adetona has the family bloodline to potentially become ruler of the Ibeju Ode tribe. This tribe is comprised of approximately 420,000 people located near Nigeria’s capital city of Lagos.

"The family just told us about him being next in line to be the king over the summer," Earls said.

At the time of the funeral, it was a very sad time for Adetona. As a link to family in Nigeria, his father’s sister was very important to Adetona. But after the mourning started to subside Adetona’s "Uncle" Yumi — not an immediate family member — was able to give him more insight into his family background.

"Uncle Yumi is really comical," Adetona says. "He told me ‘you know you’re next in line to be the king’.

"There’s a place for you in the palace."

The king in Adetona’s family is his grandfather’s brother, Oba Sikiru Adetona. Adetona’s grandfather Adebayo Adetona and father Juwon Adetona are both princes. Since Adetona is the eldest son of his father, the title passes directly to him.

"We know Tyler is a prince based on his family," Earls said. "We learned about everything else at the funeral over the summer."

"You can only become a prince through the male bloodline," Adetona added.

With his rarified heritage comes the expectation to be an exemplary citizen in his day-to-day life here in America.

"I’m expected to be a good man," Adetona said. "Whether it is in the classroom, on the football field or wherever I am, I’m supposed to lead by example."

Adetona is still in the process of starting to gather information about his family lineage, but eagerly anticipates the day when he can visit his native country.

The main link he’s had to know about his family is through pictures sent back-and-forth with family to Nigeria.

"I look forward to the day when I can visit Nigeria and see where my family is from," Adetona said. "You got to know where your roots are."

Adetona only speaks a little bit of the native language of Yuroba. He knows if he does eventually get the honor of being a king their is a detailed process to go through, which he is still very uncertain about.

But Adetona’s life now revolves around building a promising football career with the Hoosiers. He plans on pursuing a major in either computer science or business administration at the Bloomington, Ind. school.

"My dream for Tyler is that he goes to Indiana and shines," Earls said.

No matter where Adetona travels, the idea that he needs to make his family proud is never far from his mind. He says his family in Africa is always asking about how he is doing.

"Everything I do, I know it represents my family," Adetona said.



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