WASHINGTON - Each year since 2003, there has been someone different wearing the No. 35 jersey for the Georgetown University football team, honoring the spirit and memory of former Hoya defensive back Joe Eacobacci (C '96). When it came time to select the recipient for the 2017 season, rising senior David Akere (Carrollton, Texas/Hebron) was an easy choice for Georgetown Head Coach Rob Sgarlata.
"I am extremely excited to have David represent the rich tradition of the No. 35 Joe Eacobacci Memorial Jersey," Sgarlata said. "David represents everything that is special about Georgetown and our Hoya football family. Over his first three years on the Hilltop, David has excelled in the classroom and on the field. He is a vocal, enthusiastic leader who had the rare honor of serving as a captain in his junior year. He has proven to be a true man for others through his extensive community service work. I am excited for David to carry on the tradition of excellence which is synonymous with the No. 35."
The student-athlete chosen is selected based on a combination of on-field performance, skills and intangibles that cemented Eacobacci's place in Georgetown football's history. Eacobacci suited up for the Hoyas from 1993-95, serving as a team captain as a senior, before graduating from the College in 1996. He was an energy trader for the investment firm Cantor Fitzgerald on the 105th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center where he tragically lost his life on September 11, 2001.
"It's an unbelievably surreal honor to be able to represent Joe Eacobacci and simply be in the same narrative as so many other tremendous Hoya football players and inspirational men," Akere said. "I am extremely blessed and fortunate to continue playing the game I love with brothers and family I would not trade anything in the world for. I thank God for this opportunity, and will take advantage of every chance to be successful with courage in the face of adversity.
"I am so honored to be thought of in that light and be in the same sentence of Joe Eacobacci and guys like Nick Parrish, Kevin Sullivan, Nick Alfieri and Jo'el Kimpela. It is an incredible honor to be in the same sentence as those guys. They are the ones that I have looked up to since I got to Georgetown and they have done incredible things on and off the field."
Akere becomes the 14th recipient of the No. 35 Joe Eacobacci Memorial Jersey in the 15 years since its inception in 2003. He is the 10th defensive player to earn the honor and the third defensive back, sharing the same position that Eacobacci played during his time on the Hilltop.
"It is really an honor play the same position as him because it is acknowledging him and reminding people that No. 35 is playing defensive back and it started with Joe Eacobacci. It is significant that we both played defensive back because those are always the guys on the field that are vocal, loud and have to be leaders no matter what they do. They have to be vocal leaders, they have to lead by example and they have to be very passionate about the game."
While Akere's numbers on the field have been impressive, finishing second on the team with 77 total tackles and two interceptions in 2016, it is his character off the field that made him an easy choice to wear No. 35 next season. While working to complete his degree in government, Akere is also a member of Georgetown's Black Student Alliance and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and also mentors kids through Sursum Corda, a tutoring class offered at Georgetown.
"We go into a different part of the city where the kids are less fortunate. I have the opportunity to inspire the kids and talk to them about playing football, talk to them about being leaders in their communities and eventually working up to greater things and going to college hopefully. Through SAAC and the Black Student Alliance, we have a lot of kids who come to campus and I get to speak to them and tell them that I am No. 35, that I am representing something that is greater than me, something that is bigger than me on the football team."
No. 35 Joe Eacobacci Memorial Jersey Recipients
2003 - Matt Fronzcke, DB
2004 - Michael Ononibaku, DE
2005 - Michael Ononibaku, DE
2006 - Alex Buzbee, DE
2007 - Stephen Smith, DE
2008 - Nicholas Umar, LB
2009 - Robert Lane, SLOT
2010 - Nick Parrish, LB
2011 - Wayne Heimuli, DB
2012 - Kevin Sullivan, OL
2013 - Sean Campbell, LB
2014 - Nick Alfieri, LB
2015 - Jo'el Kimpela, RB
2016 - Tim Barnes, QB
2017 - David Akere, DB / Tim Barnes, QB