Every year, someone makes a name for himself in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft. Sometimes they end up just being workout warriors and end up as busts in the NFL, but sometimes they end up making a real impact at the next level.
What doesn't usually happen is that the guy making the big impact is a British Discus thrower who is putting in some seriously eye-catching performances at the regional combine. Therefore, as The Sports Post's resident British-based writer, I felt it was my duty to pass my personal opinion on the Lawrence Okoye situation.
There is no doubt in my mind that with the physical attributes that Okoye possesses, he has the potential to succeed in the NFL. Someone who has played college ball standing 6'6'' and 304 pounds, who then put in two sub-5 second 40-yard dash times and the impressive broad and vertical jumps in Dallas, would put him up into the first three or four rounds of the Draft off the bat.
Physical stats like those suggest that defensive lineman is the perfect position for him to make it in the NFL. What leaps off the page is the 40-yard dash time which peaked at 4.78. That would put him eleventh in all lineman for the 2013 combine and suggest he could chase down quarterbacks even in this read-option era of Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton and RG3.
Okoye is also someone who has already proven he has the ability to adapt his talents to different disciplines. This time two years ago, he was a highly touted Rugby Union prospect, with several top-flight English clubs offering him contacts. He would eventually turn them down to decide that with a home Olympics around the corner, he would quite fancy trying the discus. Within a year of starting, he had not only qualified for that Olympics, but reached the final, ranked fifth in the world in 2012 and, before turning 20, had made the longest throw by a teenager in the history of the sport.
To attempt to reach the NFL, Okoye has turned down Rugby, full-time athletics while also studying Law at Oxford until 2017, and an athletic scholarship in track and field with Nebraska, where his father had played for the Cornhuskers. That is where Okoye has an advantage over other very talented non-American athletes who have attempted to make the transition to the NFL. He's obviously very smart, which you need to be to have a shot at learning modern-day playbooks, but also has a family member well versed in the game and who has played it for several years.
Still, though, I would not go near Okoye if I were an NFL GM. Not because I feel he will not succeed in making the roster; it might take him a year on the practice squad, but I believe at worst he would become a specialist pass-rusher somewhere. I just don't see it being a long-term value pick. In an interview currently online on NFL.com, he talks about 'reviewing his options' when deciding to quit Rugby for Discus and then doing the same after the Olympics. Okoye strikes me as a guy that wants to try different things and prove he can do all of them.
I think after a year or two on an NFL roster, Okoye will want to 'address everything again' and succeed somewhere else. I have no qualms about his person, wanting to try everything, as he is lucky that he has the tools to be able to pull it off and should take advantage of his opportunities. But, as a GM looking after his team, I'd rather take a flyer on someone who, if he is successful, could be a 5-6 year NFL player rather than a 1-2 year guy.
By: Steve Moore