I know this is kind of long for a blog post, but I thought that this would be a great story to share on Oklahoma State cornerback Yves Batoba. I hope you enjoy.
No matter what Yves Batoba is doing, you can guarantee he’s not taking it for granted.
He has been through too much for anything to be dismissed.
Batoba, an Oklahoma State junior cornerback, was born in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
“People always ask me, ‘Did you see lions?’ but it’s nothing like that,” Batoba said. “It’s really just like South Dallas, just the houses probably weren’t as nice.”
Batoba lived in Democratic Republic of Congo until he was 6 when the Congo War broke out.
“We had to escape,” Batoba said. “We had to live as refugees for a bit because of the war. We were actually in Brazzaville, where the war began, because we were visiting my aunts and uncles.”
Leaving the war-torn country was difficult. To leave Brazzaville, Batoba, his parents, and four of his siblings (his youngest brother wasn’t born) had to take a boat across the Congo River back to Kinshasa.
The boat ride across the river would be easy. Getting to the boat was a different story.
“The only way to leave was to actually go through the war zone,” Batoba said. “We were on our elbows and knees, bullets flying above us. I just remember I was around 6 at the time, and just seeing bodies drop left and right.”
After Batoba and the rest of his family made it safely back to Kinshasa, it was time to pack up and move. Johannesburg, South Africa was the destination.
With Batoba’s family focusing on their home country, they didn’t realize South Africa wasn’t much better off.
“It was terrible over there,” Batoba said. “We moved there right at the end of apartheid and we didn’t know what apartheid was because we were living in Congo so we didn’t really know what was going on in South Africa. When we got there, we moved into a white neighborhood, and we would got robbed at least once a week. We got death threats and all sorts of stuff. So we left from there and moved to New York.”
Those two years spent moving from Democratic Republic of Congo to South Africa and the United States, were hard on Batoba.
But Batoba is a firm believer that every thing happens for a reason.
“Going through that experience, and seeing how my family was able to make it out of that, when so many people weren’t able to, you know that you’re here for a purpose,” Batoba said. “I don’t know what that purpose is, but I do know that God is moving. He’s making major moves and I pray every day, to just include me in those plans.”
After moving from New York to Irving, Texas, when Batoba was 8, his family moved to Keller, Texas, a place where Batoba lived for eight years before attending Oklahoma State.
Despite the problems Batoba encountered in Africa, his sister, Patricia, says home holds a special place in his heart.
“Yves is so proud of where he came from and he will always stand up for his country,” Patricia said.
There is a six-year age difference between Patricia and Batoba, but the two are close. Patricia is one of Batoba’s two older sisters.
“When you have a big family, there’s always going to be one sibling that you’re closer to,” Patricia said. “He’s a guy I know I can always talk to, and he knows he can talk to me about anything.”
Although not everyone shares as close a bond as Batoba and Patricia do, Patricia said Batoba finds a way to get close with anyone he meets.
“I always admire his personality, he gets along with everybody,” Patricia said. “We had a fire in our house in Keller, and Keller is not too much of a community. Most people go to work and then come home and hang out with families. But Yves knew everybody in the neighborhood.
“The firefighters came and all the neighbors came out and they all asked how Yves was and he wasn’t even there. We were all standing there, but they just asked about him.”
His personality caught the eye of Terry Henley, a senior academic counselor for football at Oklahoma State University.
“He’s very well liked by his teammates,” Henley said. “You wouldn’t be able to tell that he was a walk-on. He’s very well respected.”
Batoba went to Keller High School before walking on to the football team at OSU.
When it came to deciding on a college to go to, Batoba’s personality played a role in the decision. With an outgoing personality like his, a communications major seemed to be the perfect fit.
“It really came down to LSU and Oklahoma State because of the broadcast programs,” Batoba said. “I knew that OSU was one of the only schools in the nation that had a sports media program. And LSU had a pretty good media program, too.”
Batoba initially came to OSU for the media possibilities, but he switched majors to Sports Management and Marketing shortly after arriving on campus.
The switch had nothing to do with the class schedules or other conflicts. The reason for the switch had more to do with something that involved him on the football field.
“Two summers ago, whenever the whole conference realignment stuff started happening, I got really interested,” Batoba said. “When Nebraska left, and then Colorado left, just keeping up with that and doing all the research I did with that just to keep my self informed, I got really interested. I started to see what was going on and I really like that field.”
Even though Batoba doesn’t pursue a communications degree, his personality and communication skills have helped him assume leadership roles.
Henley said Batoba is setting himself up nicely for success after school.
“He is the guy that needs to get his masters because he is management material,” Henley said. “He has those qualities that if I was hiring him, I would sit there and look and be saying to myself, ‘This is a young man that I’m going to groom to put up in a higher position after he learns the ropes.’ ”
Batoba is putting himself in leadership roles on campus.
He is the president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, an organization that provides help for student-athletes at Oklahoma State.
“Two years ago, I found out about the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee because of Deron Fontenot, who used to play football here,” Batoba said. “He was the marketing guy for SAAC, so I asked him about it because I had just switched over to sports management. He told me to come to some of the meetings and you’ll find out more about it. So I got involved with that as just a representative of the football team.”
That was Batoba’s freshman year. By his sophomore year, Batoba was the vice president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Batoba said some of the main goals of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee include helping out other student-athletes and keeping all the athletes informed about NCAA rules.
“We try to support each other in the athletic department,” Batoba said. “We pretty much try to get a representative from every sport to just tell their teammates about things that are going on within OSU Athletics and different events that we can participate in. We also have a leadership summit that we go to every summer with other members of the Big 12 to discuss NCAA rules and regulations. As far as the legal side of the NCAA, I’m pretty familiar with it. Like that story with Ochocinco.”
Unfortunately for Batoba and his sneaker collection, he knows the law.
Chad Ochocinco, the entertaining New England Patriots wide receiver, tweeted back at Batoba after Batoba commented on wanting a pair of Louboutin shoes, like the ones Ochocinco had.
Ochocinco tweeted back, offering to give Batoba a free pair, but Batoba had to decline because of the possibility of breaking an NCAA rule. The story got a lot of media coverage.
“My position coach (Jason Jones) came up to me and said, ‘I heard you’re talking to celebrities now.’ He told me it was on the front page of MSN.com,” Batoba said. “People are always like, ‘I would have taken the shoes,’ but I know the rules.”
After declining the shoe offer from Ochocinco, Batoba made sure to tweet the NCAA.
“Don’t worry NCAA, I turned em down… I know y’all were on yall’s way over here,” Batoba tweeted.
When Batoba isn’t doing school stuff, or working with football or the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, there is a good chance he’s doing something to better himself spiritually.
Patricia said Batoba shows his faith all the time, even if it’s not the cool thing to do.
“He’s always been the popular guy among his peers, but he’s not afraid to stand out for his faith,” Patricia said. “He is very confident with who he is.”
Batoba says his dedication to his faith comes from his family.
“I come from a religious family,” Batoba said. “And over the past couple years, I’ve been trying to grow spiritually. My No. 1 goal every day is just to seek God, and become more Christ-like. Whenever you look at Jesus’ life, every single day he had a purpose. He always knew what he was going to do that day. I can’t just not do anything one day.
“When you look at John 5 or Matthew 8, Jesus talks about how God doesn’t rest. Whenever the disciples ask him why he isn’t eating or sleeping, he says because he has a job to get done. I feel like if I’m striving to be like Christ, why stop grinding?”
Even if Batoba wanted to rest, he rarely has time to do so. When class is over, it’s straight to homework, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, or football.
“Time management is just the biggest thing,” Batoba said. “There’s no time to be wasted.”
Football is a year-round thing at college programs like Oklahoma State. There is no down time.
When the season is over, the Cowboys start preparing for the next one. With the amount of time Batoba has spent working out during the past three years, it would be expected that he would be muscular, which he is. It would also be expected that he would love to work out, which he doesn’t.
He will do it, just don’t plan to become L.A. Fitness partners after school is done.
“I actually don’t like working out,” Batoba said. “I can run. I could run all day. I mean I’ll do it and I won’t complain about it, but whenever this whole football thing is over, I don’t see myself going to the weight room three times a week.”
Batoba won’t complain about working out, going to school or anything else.
Henley said Batoba’s work ethic and attitude stand out, even from afar.
“Yves falls into that category of guys that I don’t work with a lot because they are so professional with how they take care of business,” Henley said. “You can tell Yves is goal-oriented and his work ethic is off the charts.”
When Batoba isn’t busy with school, football, or the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, he fills his time with sports, friends and his faith.
“I play beach volleyball, of course,” Batoba said. “We have this thing called men’s group; it’s a Bible study, at my house every Monday night. Other than that, I really like to just focus on spiritual growth and just hanging out.”
Batoba doesn’t know where he is going when he graduates from OSU, but he is not the only college student to feel that way. Throughout his life he has learned to go with the flow and things will eventually work out.
But as a man who is so focused and goal-oriented, Batoba knows where he wants to end up.
“I want to eventually become an athletic director at a major college program,” Batoba said. “I wouldn’t mind going to the pros, but college athletics is where my heart is at.”
You have been warned, Mike Holder.