MISSOULA — Fifteen minutes before practice is set to start, Samuel Akem lets out a howling woo as he exits the player's tunnel onto the field.

It's to be expected. He does this every day. 

The redshirt freshman wide receiver from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, doesn't know why he started wooing, but it's become a part of his daily routine.

"I started doing that my freshman year," Akem said of his daily grand entrance to practice. "I just started doing that when I would come out of the tunnel. This year, I've done it every day since fall camp started."

It's not random, though. There's a method to the madness.

Akem waits in the locker room until sophomore wide receiver Justin Calhoun is ready for practice. 

"We come out (of the tunnel) together," Akem said, with Calhoun standing an arm's length away. "I kinda take my little step ahead of him before we come out and I do the little woo and we play our catch. It's pretty much a daily routine — I do the my woo, we play catch and wait on Coach Ferriter to call us over there to do our catching drills. It's just routine."

Akem's jovial energy rubs off around the team, including with one of the more quiet leaders in junior wide receiver Keenan Curran. 

"He's probably one of the most energetic people I've ever met in my life," Curran said with a smile. "I think at first it was different for me because I'm not used to someone being that energetic all the time. You have to learn to not take it for granted because having that type of energy is not common. A lot of teams don't have someone like that. 

"No matter what's going on, he's always energetic, always positive, always pro-team. Even though he's a young guy, and sometimes, at 6:45 (a.m.) you don't want to hear yelling, but you have to appreciate it. ... This kid is just always excited to play the game of football and that's something you love to see in a guy."

Curran has no idea where his teammate's energy comes from, saying Akem isn't a coffee or pre-workout drinker. 

"I honestly think that is his natural appreciation for life," Curran said. "Kudos to him for having it and being consistent with it, but I think that's something Sam's got that nobody else has."

Wide receivers coach Mike Ferriter sees it too. 

"Sammy brings energy," Ferriter said. "He's got a great attitude. He's got an infectious personality that people latch onto. The thing that we love about him most is he shows up to practice everyday.

"He brings enthusiasm and every time he comes out of the tunnel, people know he's ready to practice. That's something you love because that stuff is contagious and that's what we require. We require our guys every time they come out of the tunnel to be 100 percent ready to play. And I think Sammy does that every day."


Akem was vastly under-recruited in high school, living in the shadows of his older brother, Gyasi Akem, who's a senior linebacker for Oklahoma State. 

But Gyasi attending Oklahoma State is how Samuel — a 6-foot-4, 195 pound wideout — found his way to Montana in the first place. 

Montana's defensive coordinator, Jason Semore, worked at Oklahoma State from 2012-13 as a defensive assistant. 

"When Coach Semore was there, he got to know the family," Ferriter said. "When Coach Semore got this job, he used his connections in Oklahoma and his relationships with the family to get Sammy up here."

When Akem came up to Missoula, he was blown away. He was impressed by the stadium, but even more so with the community.

"Random people were just coming up to talk to me," Akem said. "I thought that was real cool. In Oklahoma, we don't really get that. People are nice, but, people just coming out of their way to say hi to you and just talk to you and have a conversation with you. I thought that was pretty cool."

Akem didn't have many options other than Montana, and he knew that. 

In addition to coming to Missoula, Akem took visits to Arkansas State and Southern Methodist. 

"To be honest with you, (Montana was) one of the only schools, Division I-wise, that came knocking," Akem said. "I came up here, had my visit and I really enjoyed it. They were the first and only team that really took a chance on me. Why bail on them when the time came to sign my letter of intent?"

It's paid off. 

Akem was last season's scout team player of the year and has earned a second-string spot behind Curran at X-receiver.

Through his first two games in a Griz uniform, Akem's had four receptions for 43 yards. His 43 yards are fifth most on the team. 

"Sammy's a phenomenal athlete, and he picks things up very quickly," Ferriter said. "He's very coachable. He understands what we ask of him and what we require of him. When you match his personalty, his attitude, his work ethic, along with his natural abilities, he's the type of person — not many people can play as freshmen — but he's one of the guys that's gonna be able to do that for us."

Ahead of the season, Akem made a couple big catches in the scrimmages.

In the first scrimmage, Akem had a 7-yard reception for a touchdown. In the third scrimmage, he had one reception for 33 yards. 

"On my end of it, I feel like I put in the work," Akem said. "I put in the time and I worked hard for this. Now, it feels good, but I gotta keep going. The work I put in and the work I've put in prior to all this is finally starting to show by me getting playing time. Now I gotta take it a step ahead of that and start making big plays on the field." 

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Amie Just covers Griz football for the Missoulian, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at Amie.Just@406mtsports.com.

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