During the rookie minicamp, DE Lawrence Okoye was learning the basics of the NFL and working to be stronger as a player. The 6-5, 304 pound lineman from England is making a commitment to being a football player.
“I think the [49ers] saw my results from the combine and my ambition,” said Okoye. “I’m not here for fun, but I really want to make the team and work hard everyday.”
A reason why Okoye chose the 49ers was because defensive line coach Jim Tomsula once worked in NFL Europa helping develop players across the Atlantic Ocean. Having spent nine years with various football jobs in Europe, Okoye said his familiarity with players overseas makes a difference.
Okoye has to adjust quickly to the style of the NFL if he wants to make an impact in the short term. During the regional combine, he impressed NFL teams when bench pressing 20 reps of 225 pounds, a 36-inch vertical jump and a 4.78 forty-yard dash. In the rookie minicamp, he was throwing the medicine ball farther than anyone else and leaping higher than others in the vertical jump.
Previously, Okoye spent time as a rugby player which requires tackling in the open field, minus wearing the pads. In 2010, he switched to discus throwing and competed in the 2012 London Olympics but finished in 12th place.
When it comes to American football, Okoye felt he was a natural fit for the defensive end position because of his combination of strength and speed. In today’s NFL, the DE needs to explosive, but also quick around the edges in pass rushing and Okoye’s athleticism fits that bill.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh said he is a “beautiful man from our creator” and called him “an Adonis, a great physical specimen of a man.”
With the injuries to Justin Smith and 2013 draft picks Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine, Okoye is receiving more reps for a DE than he would have if they were healthy. During the OTAs, he is seen practicing with Ray McDonald, Glenn Dorsey and 2012 practice squad promoted Tony Jerrod-Eddie.
He is viewed as a long term project if he makes the 53-man roster. In the short term, he could contribute on special teams and be a seldom used DE to provide depth at the position. It will be an uphill battle with all other defensive linemen having experience and knowledge of the position, but if he adapts quickly to the game, Okoye could excel in the NFL.
Okoye said wants to be an NFL player and hopes to continue learning throughout the offseason with the desire to make the team. He will continue to work hard striving for a spot on the roster.
“I want to learn more today and even more tomorrow,” said Okoye. “I hope to go from zero to much higher up.My only interest is playing football and taking it minute by minute. I believe in my ability and working hard.”