ALAMEDA, Calif. (KTVU) - From his modest home in Alameda 17-year-old Akil Francisco read his recruitment letter from the University of Hawaii recognizing he's come a long way.
“Multiple schools offered me scholarships and I ended up choosing Hawaii a home away from home,” said Akil.
Wednesday February 1, Akil joined other top high school football players across the country and signed his letter of intent with the University of Hawaii. It's a full scholarship and his uncle was overjoyed.
"Super proud for the family all really proud. I myself can't express it in words," said Akil's uncle and guardian John Francisco.
What’s remarkable is how Akil, at a young age has battled adversity.
When Akil was just months old, his father Mike "Dream" Francisco was murdered during a robbery on
Oakland's west side. A well-known graffiti artist and activist, his murals can still be found throughout the Bay Area.
Akil has very little memory about his father, but says he had heard the stories through family and friends and said this about his father.
"He wasn't a follower, he was a leader and that's where I get it from my work ethic and desire; from my father and my uncle. I'm just trying to keep the Francisco name alive."
Death has followed Akil throughout his young life. After his father was murdered in 2000, 10 months later he lost his mother Nicole Sellers to breast cancer before she headed to Wisconsin for treatment.
Akil's uncle made her a promise.
"I said this is my brother’s son and I think of him as my own. I promised her that no matter what that I would get him to college", said John Francisco.
But even as the good news came with a phone call from the University of Hawaii expressing interest in offering a full scholarship a dark cloud followed.
Akil rushed downstairs to tell his grandmother saying, "I told my grandmother that I was going to the University of Hawaii and she didn't have to worry about anything and just the look on her face it was priceless and good thing because a few months later she ended up passing from breast cancer I was able to leave her with good news" said Akil.
An undersized cornerback, Akil says he has always had to prove himself while playing for the Encinal Jets in Alameda and credits his head coach Rick Rodriguez for giving him the opportunity to shine.
Akil say's once he gets to Hawaii he has no intention of red shirting instead he plans to fight like he always has.
“Once I get there, I'm going to compete and prove myself the same way I proved myself here in Alameda.”
Wise beyond his years and well-read and humble, Akil has learned valuable lessons in life and admits while football is great, he plans to study communications if he doesn't make it to the NFL.
He understands that it has been an incredible journey and continues to thank loved ones past and present who helped along the way.
“I definitely feel although they're not here physically they are here spiritually with me."
After his father’s death in 2000, Akil's friends and family established a trust fund with his college tuition payed for through the scholarship that trust fund will be used for other expenses beyond college.
The University of Hawaii grants 25 scholarships each year. Coaches for the Rainbows were impressed by Akil's mental toughness while dealing with such un imaginable losses in his life.