Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio sees a very raw athlete when British discus thrower Lawrence Okoye is practicing with the team. He has all the strength and everything you want in an athlete, but he still needs to learn the fundamentals of the game.
“[Okoye] is like all these rookies here expect he’s never played football before,” said Fangio. He’s got a lot to learn. Not just learn because normally, guys play peewee football, high school football, college football for a reason. And he hasn’t. So, he’ll have a lot to learn. But, I don’t think we’ll get a true picture of him for a while.”
Throughout the rookie minicamp, OTAs and team minicamp, the athleticism and strength are visible. Okoye was able to leap higher than everyone else and threw a medicine ball farther more 30 yards.
Due to the lack of experience at playing American football, Okoye has had to take things one day at a time figuring out how to be a defensive end. Okoye admitted he wasn’t overwhelmed, but fascinated with the whole process.
“[This sport] is very technical in terms of [American football],” said Okoye. “I’m trying to learn as quickly as possible and the coaches are not forcing everything on me.”
With no-contact in OTAs and minicamp, only time will tell what Okoye can do or not. With Justin Smith and Tank Carradine out for the practice this spring, Okoye has been receiving more reps and time with Jim Tomsula.
Fangio said there is no way anyone can judge him one way or another until training camp begins. Okoye’s athleticism alone is what a defensive end needs in the NFL today.
“You see some potential, But, still it’s a game that he has to know how to play,” said Fangio. “And it’s going to be a matter of how quickly he learns how to play. He hasn’t had anybody hit him yet. He hasn’t had a double team yet. He hasn’t figured out if it’s a run or pass whether he should rush, or play the run. So, it’ll probably be a very slow process with him much more than a normal rookie.”
For Okoye, he will need to vastly improve his knowledge of the game throughout training camp if he wants to make the 53-man roster. It will be hard among the competition of Carradine, Quinton Dial and Glenn Dorsey who all have experience with the game. Okoye hopes to work hard to make an impression on the coaches for training camp.
“I’m going to take each day as it comes,” said Okoye. “I believe in my ability and working hard. In this organization, I think I can play well.”