“How many you going to get this year?” Atoki said to Temple’s 2017 leader in interceptions.
“I wanna get eight,” Randall told him.
Atoki, a former linebacker, isn’t on Temple’s roster anymore, but he is still part of the team. Instead of participating in drills on the field, Atoki now spends every practice on the balcony as Temple’s DJ.
Midway through last season, Atoki approached coach Geoff Collins in his office. He told Collins he didn’t want to play football anymore because he wanted to spend that time working. Once spring camp arrived, Collins asked Atoki if he wanted to stick around as the DJ.
“I came in here as the [linebacker]…I changed to [wide receiver], and now I’m the DJ,” Atoki said. “Coach Collins still treats me like a player.”
Atoki originally planned to enlist in the Army after college. His mother and step-father were both in the military, he said. But instead, Atoki plans to start a job at Comcast in sales in 2019. He is expected to graduate with an adult and organizational development degree this summer.
Atoki recorded nine tackles in 23 career games in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He mostly played on special teams during his career and also played at linebacker.
Atoki spent time in the DJ role during the 2016 season under former coach Matt Rhule. A broken hand kept Atoki out of the lineup as the Owls went on to win the American Athletic Conference championship against Navy.
“[Collins] didn’t want to take football away from me,” Atoki said. “He knew that I didn’t want to play anymore, just because I wanted to work. He knew that I could bring the atmosphere and DJ because I did it before.”
“He’s up there just spinning it, doing an unbelievable job,” Collins said. “I question the song selection sometimes, but our kids seem to be dancing and enjoying and playing hard, so I guess he might be doing Atoki spends every night before practice assembling the playlist, and he still arrives at Edberg-Olson Hall at 6 a.m. before practices.
Before Temple hits the field, Atoki checks his phone to see if he has any last-minute song requests and grabs some breakfast.
Redshirt-junior defensive back Kareem Ali said he texts Atoki every night before practice with song suggestions, like “Hardaway” by Derez Deshon.
“He knows when to put them on, too,” Ali said. “He sees everybody getting the vibe, getting the moment to the song.”
During practice, Scott Wallace, director of football operations, announces when stations or drills change over a microphone. When the periods switch, Atoki strategically plays different songs.
When Temple does seven-on-seven drills, Atoki plays up-tempo music from artists like Meek Mill or Playboi Carti. Atoki plays tough music like from hip-hop duo M.O.P. if the Owls are in red-zone drills, because they’ll be hitting each other. During individual drills, Atoki plays relaxed music, he said.
“It gives me a lot of energy,” said redshirt-junior running back Jager Gardner, who has been Atoki’s roommate throughout college. “This was a craft he’s been working on a while, and now he can just broadcast it to us. He picked up new equipment. Before, he was just doing it on a computer. Now, he’s got everything.”
Atoki’s inspiration to make music stems from his family. His uncle played the piano, and his grandmother sang in a choir.
But Atoki is a self-taught DJ. In high school, Atoki played around with vocals and instrumentals using “edjing Mix,” a DJ app on his iPhone.
In 2015, when Atoki was a freshman, he sent 45-minute pregame warmup mixes to upperclassmen on the team like former linebackers Tyler Matakevich and Haason Reddick and former cornerback Tavon Young.
Atoki started to play the same mixes in the locker room for everyone to hear before games in 2016. He continued to do that last season and included some of redshirt-senior running back David Hood’s work.
Hood goes by the rap name Trizzy Tre Hood. His SoundCloud account boasts 46 tracks and 226 followers.
“I worked with him at a party when I performed, and he DJed,” Hood said. “He just always asks for my songs to play when he’s DJing.”
Atoki wants to find a job and continue to DJ during Temple’s practices throughout the season before he accepts his Comcast position in 2019. He also wants to DJ in the locker room prior to kickoff.
“Atoki found his niche,” Ali said. “He’s the DJ for the spring. He’s still around the guys, he still gives advice, he’s still there to talk, he’s still one of us. I’m just glad he’s enjoying himself.”