As Deborah Ayoade lined up for a field goal, all eyes were on her as she kicked in hopes of winning a Zaxby’s gift card. She reared back and swung her leg, glancing up at the uprights as her shoe flew into the air. Short.
But as she looked down, her boyfriend Ike Ekeke glanced up at her and pulled out a ring.
“I got off work at midnight, and I almost wasn’t going to come,” Ayoade said. “But he kept saying, ‘No, you have to come. It’s Homecoming.’ I literally have been in Macon for less than an hour.”
She received a little better prize than a Zaxby’s gift card.
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Ekeke and Ayoade met at Mercer in 2009, so coming back to propose during halftime of Mercer’s 21-18 loss to ETSU was truly a homecoming for both of them. Both Mercer alum, the couple met in the Connell Student Center.
Ekeke remembers hearing a voice; it was trying to say his full Nigerian name, Ikechukwu Ekeke.
“I heard someone trying to say that, and they said it wrong — of course,” Ekeke said. “That person was her.”
Ayoade is also Nigerian. She was doing a funnel cake fundraiser for her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta.
“Did I say it right?” she asked.
“No, but close enough,” he said.
He offered to buy a cake but didn’t have any cash, so he asked if she would be at the table tomorrow. Ayoade said that one of her sorority sisters would be. But that wasn’t what Ekeke wanted to know.
“I wasn’t flirting. She was trying to make a sale, and so I thought she deserved the sale,” Ekeke said. “The very next day, I forgot.”
But Ekeke didn’t lose his opportunity. The two later worked together on a program for international students, and the rest is history.
Both being of Nigerian descent, they wanted to stick to family traditions. So once Ekeke decided he wanted to marry Ayoade, he went to every measure to follow those traditions — even going to Dubai to earn her family’s blessing.
Ayoade was asked to be a bridesmaid in her cousin’s wedding in Dubai, where all her extended family would be attending.
Ekeke saved up for a year in order to go to the wedding to meet the rest of her family. After receiving their blessing, Ekeke took another year to save up for the ring to present during halftime.
“It’s been nine years,” Ayoade said. “So I’m very happy. It’s about time.”