September 6, 2017 11:40:48 AM
STARKVILLE -- Pete Smith has been teaching long enough to know one generality about college students: they don't make unprompted visits to their professors unless they have a to-the-point question about the class. Stephen Adegoke was different, and Smith found that out immediately.
One day last spring Adegoke made an unannounced visit to Smith's office with no questions about the course he was taking or an upcoming exam. Adegoke simply wanted to bring a related subject to his attention and discuss it.
"I knew at that point that I was dealing with a really special student, the kind that, as a professor, you want in multiple classes," Smith told The Dispatch. "He mentioned it and I was a little taken aback and impressed. This guy is for real."
At that point, Smith gathered what those in the Mississippi State football program already had: Adegoke is one of the smartest people in the building wherever he is. He has stood out to his position coach, MSU safeties coach Ron English, for that reason just like he has with his professors. Smith likened a one-on-one conversation with Adegoke to one with an advanced graduate student.
It's clearly a point of pride for Adegoke.
"On the field, you may not be the fastest or the strongest," he said, "but off the field, if you have the same opportunities as everybody else, I think you should take advantage of it."
Smith has taught Adegoke twice and noticed a, "quiet, respectful demeanor," that didn't boast his intelligence. Smith first taught Adegoke in an introductory course before last spring when Adegoke took Smith's CO 4323, a course he described as focusing on, "mass media in society, its relationship with the audience and media technology."
Adegoke is a computer science major with a heavy interest in programming -- he wants to start his career in building apps for smartphones -- but maintains an interest in communications; so much so he made it his minor.
"I just feel like learning how people interact with each other and looking at how group polarization affects people and their decision making, it helps you," Adegoke said. "You sit in front of a computer all day, it makes you more introverted and you don't communicate with people as much."
Adegoke is not one to take on an interest and do so light-heartedly. When he's not working on football or schoolwork required for his degree, he said he maintains interests in medicine and wildlife, among other things. He recently watched a documentary on wildlife in Africa in which he learned hyenas can run at 90 percent of their full speed for up to three miles -- and learned it well enough to recite it immediately when prompted for a fact from the documentary.
None of that is a surprise to those that know Adegoke the academic.
"You can tell he keeps up with the current conversation going on in the communication field whether it's technology, content, outside of class," Smith said. "He's very well-read on the subject matter -- subject matters, plural. I've talked to a couple colleagues who have had him in class and I think they would agree.
"He keeps the conversation going when I ask for discussion points. I had to be careful not to call on him too much because the other students would rely on him. Once in a while when he had his hand raised I'd have to tell him I was ignoring him."
Adegoke the football player took a winding road to MSU. He played his high school football for South Gwinnett High School in Snellville, Georgia, nestled almost perfectly in between Atlanta and Athens. Adegoke's academic opportunities were obviously abundant, but his pursuit of football took him to San Diego Mesa College, a two-year school in California where he maintained a 3.6 grade point average, before a coach there found him a spot at MSU.
Adegoke shows no fear in another drastic location change: he said he's willing to go wherever the best opportunity in programming is once he leaves MSU. His academic influences have no doubt he will succeed wherever he goes.
"He'd make a fantastic graduate student candidate," Smith said. "Most students in my department have to take at least one of my classes, and he's probably in the top 5 to 10 percent in terms of level of interest and command of material. I don't think that's hyperbole."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter, @Brett_Hudson
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