A lot of people are curious about what Lawrence Okoye is up to. How does a man who just started playing football — and put on the pads for the first time less than a month ago — prepare to play in the NFL? During the beginning of yesterday’s practice, Okoye was the only defensive lineman to take part in one special drill.

While the rest of the linemen were chatting with each other and occasionally getting in and out of three-point stances, Okoye was off to the side working pretty hard. His task: explode forward from a kneeling position into a blocking shield.

Lawrence Okoye 49ers training camp

Lawrence Okoye SF 49ers

Lawrence Okoye 49ers

Lawrence Okoye 49ers training camp 2013

Again and again Okoye did this, and it didn’t look easy — especially considering the rest of the guys on the d-line were performing much less strenuous tasks. But Jim Tomsula wasn’t satisfied.

“Lawrence, run into it with your face,” Tomsula said. “Get your nose bloody.”

Tomsula wasn’t kidding, and without questioning his coach’s order or even rolling his eyes, Okoye got to work.

Lawrence Okoye 49ers face plant 2

 

Lawrence Okoye 49ers face plant 1

Lawrence Okoye 49ers pad face 3

But that wasn’t enough for Tomsula, who wanted Okoye to keep his eyes open. Once again, Okoye obliged.

Lawrence Okoye face pad 4 closeup

Okoye certainly has the size to play in the league — he towers over everyone on the team and looks almost comically large before getting into his stance during 11-on-11s. But even the chaotic world of rugby can’t prepare someone for the force and frequency of NFL collisions on the line, and this eye-opening drill (which could very well be something Tomsula asks other players to perform, for all I know) allows Okoye to prove his toughness while training him to shed a human’s natural instincts to avoid contact and pain. Either that or Tomsula thinks Okoye is a little too pretty to play on his defensive line.

By the way, Okoye’s nose appeared to stay intact after running face-first into the blocking shield about a half-dozen times. So there’s a decent chance Tomsula asks Okoye to put his face to work again when the 49ers get back on the practice field tomorrow.