“He’s just an Adonis. Just a great physical specimen of a man. I can think of some other adjectives. Our Creator created a beautiful man. And the things that really impressed, he had the rugby background growing up, and didn’t start throwing the discus until he was 18 years old. And then two years later he was throwing in the Olympics. So, you maybe start to put the pieces together and say, taking on football at this time in his life, I can see this guy doing it. So, I’m excited.”
— Jim Harbaugh on Lawrence Okoye
Here’s Okoye at CES Performance in Atlanta, officially signing with the San Francisco 49ers today.
Okoye is a 21-year-old, and it’s hard to blame Harbaugh for getting excited. He truly does sound like the perfect man. Not only is he gigantic (6′ 5 1/2″, 304 lbs, 34 1/2″ arms), fast (4.78 40-yard dash) and strong (30 bench reps). Not only did he jump higher (35 inches) and further (125 inches) than every 49ers draft pick other than their first (Eric Reid) and their last (Rutgers CB Marcus Cooper).
- He’s an Olympian: Okoye finished 12th in the Discus in London with a throw of 61.03 meters.
- He’s smart: he has a place deferred to study law at Oxford University.
- He’s got bloodlines: his dad, Lawrence Okoye, Sr., played defensive end at Nebraska.
- He’s really, really strong: here’s a clip of him putting up 210 kg (463 lbs)
Chances are Okoye will be stashed on the 49ers’
practice opportunity squad, where he’ll work towards becoming a world-class defensive lineman as quickly as he soared to elite status in the world of discus. The 49ers — who might have the most British fans of any NFL franchise — are playing the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium (which sits 20 minutes from Croydon, where Okoye grew up) on Oct. 27. And the 49ers just so happen to let their opportunity squaders travel with the rest of the team on road trips.
“It would be a dream come true to play American football in front of my home country and my hometown in London,” Okoye said. “I’m a long, long way away from that. My priority at the moment is to get to camp, train as hard as possible and work with Jim Tomsula.”
As an undrafted free agent, Okoye probably chose the 49ers for several reasons. They’re a marquee franchise, they win and they’ll be taking that aforementioned trip to London this year. But Okoye has a steep learning curve ahead of him, so the smartest reason to choose San Francisco (other than the weather in the fall and winter compared to other locales) may be the presence of Tomsula. Just ask Ricky Jean-Francois, a former seventh-rounder who signed a huge deal with the Colts this offseason. Or Ian Williams, who was undrafted out of Notre Dame and signed a two-year contract extension with the 49ers that takes him through the 2015 season.
The craziest thing about this Adonis? He’s only going to get bigger after the 49ers’ strength and conditioning team starts working with him. With his height and long limbs, watch that weight to travel upward as he trains for the gridiron instead of the track. I might be getting ahead of myself here, but with his athleticism and intelligence I wouldn’t be surprised to see Okoye follow the path of guys like Isaac Sopoaga, Will Tukuafu and Demarcus Dobbs and get a look at fullback.