CCS’s Bai Jobe journey from Africa led him to a future in a new sport in Oklahoma
Whenever Jobe makes a tackle or sack, it’s not hard to notice the flag of Senegal stuck to the left side of his helmet.
NORMAN — Bai Jobe stands out on the football field.
Sure, the 6-foot-5, 210-pound athlete is easy to spot standing next to his high school teammates. But his uniform also sets him apart.
Everyone on the team wears a white helmet with the purple and gold Community Christian School logo on the right side. But wherever Jobe makes a tackle or sack, like the one he made Friday night against Crossings Christian, it’s not hard to notice the bright red, green and yellow flag of Senegal stuck to the left side of his helmet.
“They haven’t said anything to me about it,” Jobe said with a smile, “so I just keep it on
It’s a reminder of home.
Jobe moved from Africa to America for a better education and a chance to play basketball in an organized setting for the first time. The change has brought many challenges most wouldn’t be able to handle. He’s had to battle through a language barrier, cultural differences and the untimely death of his biological mother thousands of miles away.
But in just three years, Jobe has learned his third language, a sport he never imagined he’d be playing and has become one of the top football prospects in the nation while doing it.
ESPN calls him a four-star prospect, and scholarship offers already have come from Oklahoma State University, Iowa State and many others.
“It’s just weird the way life leads you,” said Jim Bond, Jobe’s guardian-father. “It’s been kind of like a dream. It’s just funny how life … a leaf falls and how the wind takes it. You just make a decision and things happen.”
Starting the process
Jim and Sue Bond have homeschooled their five biological kids through the years, but because both Jim and Sue played college basketball at Oklahoma Christian University, they kept their kids active in the sport.
They came to know a few coaches through homeschool teams, including Kurt Talbott, with the OKC Storm.
“We’re always getting videos and things like that of kids,” said Talbott, whose teams have won numerous national homeschool championships. “People contact us to bring kids over, bring kids in.”
Jobe’s family was among those who reached out. They sent videos of Jobe playing pick-up basketball on dirt playgrounds with bent empty-net rims. At 14, Jobe was jumping over kids and dunking on NBA-size 10-foot goals.
Talbott liked what he saw, especially Jobe’s athleticism and body type. But as a homeschool team, the Storm is not able to bring in international students without I-20 visas, a document that allows them to study in America. Students can only receive the visas from certain schools approved by the federal government.
So Talbott approached Jim and told him about Jobe, “a kid who looks pretty amazing and what he’s doing at 14 years old.”
The Bonds were not strangers to housing international students. Both grew up in small-town Oklahoma, Jim in Stroud, Sue in Watonga, but after a trip to Japan as college exchange students, their eyes and hearts were opened to helping others in far-away places.
“All of a sudden, your heart strings are like, ‘Oh, we might be able to help this kid,’” Jim said of welcoming another international student into their home. “‘Shouldn’t we do that?’”
Coming to America
The Bond family discussed hosting Jobe — whose name is pronounced “Bye JO-buh” — for a couple of months before ultimately deciding to give it a go.
In November 2018, Jobe’s plane touched down in Oklahoma.
“I came in November, and I was cold, cold, cold,” Jobe said, smiling. “I was saying, ‘Wow, I’m going to die.’ I (had) never seen snow before until I came here. And the weather in November is really windy. It was crazy to me.”
It took Jobe, then in eighth grade, about a month to get used to the weather and the food.
“When I first came, I was just eating potato chips and ketchup,” Jobe said, “because I just didn’t know the food.”
But just as he started to get more comfortable, his biological mother, Ndeye Jallow, died from cancer back in Senegal. Being Muslim, Ndeye was buried within 12 hours after her death.
Jobe wasn’t able to travel home to see her.
“They did live stream it for him,” said Sue, Jobe’s guardian-mother. “My husband stayed up with him because of the time difference and just held him.”
Jobe’s biological father, Lamin Jobe, told the Bonds to just make sure his son gets a good education. The Bond family already was willing to do that, but now, they were even more determined.
Sue told Bai, “That’s my job as Mama Sue — make sure you’re a good man. Your mama has raised you to this point, and I’m going to make sure to finish it out and make you a good man.”
But if Jobe was going to get the best education in America, he was going to need to close the language gap. He could speak his native language, Wolof, and even French, but he severely lacked English. The Bonds enlisted the help of a retired AP English teacher.
Three years later, the results are noticeable.
“Just been working hard,” Jobe said of the level of English he speaks now. “In the beginning, I was getting mad, and I would say, ‘This is too much.’ But I don’t regret it because all they want is the best for me. I really appreciate that.”
Before his arrival, the Bonds had scoured the Norman area for Student and Exchange Visitor Program certified schools. Community Christian School was one of the few with an international program.
When Mat McIntosh, the CCS athletic director and head football coach, met Jobe, he was impressed with everything about the eighth-grader, including his intelligence and grasp on multiple languages.
But Jobe’s athleticism was impressive, too.
“When we met him and talked … we figured he’d be a basketball player,” McIntosh said of the 6-foot-3 middle schooler. “But almost from day one after he got in our school, me and a couple of the other guys, we began immediately telling him he should give football a try sometime.”
Jobe didn’t have any aspirations to play football. He saw how rough it was
“I came in November, and I was cold, cold, cold. I (had) never seen snow before until I came here.”
Community Christian basketball and football player from Senegal
and didn’t want to risk an injury that could jeopardize his basketball chances. So he turned down the coach’s request every time.
Then came a night that changed his life.
“It was a crazy story, man,” Jobe said, shaking his head with a grin. “It was a crazy story.”
Going to the gridiron
On Sept 18, 2020, Jim, who is a sports-injury doctor, had a shift working the Norman-Mustang football game. He asked Jobe to tag along.
As Jobe stood on the sidelines, he felt the energy of the crowd and was immediately hooked.
“It was hyping everywhere,” Jobe said, throwing his arms in the air. “Everywhere people were yelling, and I like the hype. I really enjoy it, and I was saying, ‘Wow.’”
Jobe watched as Norman High receiver Jaden Bray, now at OSU, made highlight catches and amazing plays. Jobe and Bray had occasionally played pick-up basketball together in Norman
“He’s not better than me on the basketball (court), so why wouldn’t I do that?” Jobe said with a smile of trying football. “If he’s not better than me in basketball and he’s not getting hurt in football, I can play without getting hurt.”
On the car ride home, Jobe looked over to Jim.
“Dad, do you think I can play football?” Jobe asked.
“Absolutely,” Jim said. “But I don’t think you can play now because the season has already started.”
“The coaches told me I could come anytime I want,” Jobe said.
The next day, Jim called McIntosh. Two days later, Jobe, who didn’t even know the distance of a yard, ran out for his first football practice.
Jobe told his biological father about his decision and sent him pictures of American football.
“Why do you want to do that?” Lamin asked Jobe. “That’s crazy. It’s like rugby!”
Jobe went through obvious growing pains with football, learning how to tackle and how to catch.
“It was tough trying to learn everything,” Jobe said. “In the beginning, I didn’t really like it, to be honest. I was saying, ‘I don’t think I can do this. I’m going to stay with basketball.’”
There’s a good chance Jobe would have quit. But Community Christian has a school policy that if an athlete quits a sport in the middle of the season for any reason, they cannot go on to the next sport until the sport they quit finishes.
So Jobe stuck it out.
His first few games weren’t great, but in his fourth game, he recorded nine tackles, including three for loss, to go along with 24-yard fumble and 40yard touchdown interception returns in Community Christian’s 27-7 win over Bethel.
Jobe was named The Oklahoman’s staff pick Player of the Week for his performance.
“That one, I enjoyed after I got my touchdowns and started getting some sacks,” he said. “I was hype.”
So were college recruiters. Jobe, whose raw speed and athleticism sets him apart, began to receive college scholarship offers and planned to attend 7-on-7 camps to learn more about football.
A year later, Jobe is a junior at Community Christian School and one of the hottest recruits in the state. On Wednesday, the first day college coaches could call or text high school juniors, Jobe woke up to multiple text messages.
“I never dreamed he’d be a football player,” Talbott, the Storm coach, said laughing. “Whenever he was talking to me he was like, ‘I want to be like Russell Westbrook.’”
Jobe remains a great basketball player. He helped lead CCS to the Class 3A state tournament last year, but football, a sport he’d never imagined playing when he crossed the ocean, is now his future. His route to a better education has changed.
Just like a lot of things in his life. Jobe has moved on from the chipsand-ketchup diet. His favorite food now is a double cheeseburger and french fries from McDonald’s. He’s moved on from the playground-style sports he played in Senegal, too, now playing on hardwood floors and turf football fields.
Bai Jobe has even changed his thinking about his favorite sport.
“Hmm, it was (basketball), but I like football,” he said. “It’s cool to play football.”