If you – like me – and every single other person seemingly in the UK were hooked on London 2012 then you’ll remember Lawrence Okoye. He represented Team GB in the discus and made the final. He was disappointed to come last but he was still young. With Rio De Janeiro but now just three and a half years away you might think that he is busy working on that dream but he isn’t. He is in America trying to catch on with an NFL team and the surprising thing is – he might just do it.
In America they have a draft system instead of you can just sign whoever you want out of the young talent. This is the same in all major American sports. So Okoye is over there working out at combines, which are events that players go to in an attempt to impress watching scouts. Despite never having played at a competitive level it seems that Okoye is the player impressing most. ‘Okoye looked like he could be drafted. He was unbelievably active and incredibly explosive in drills. It was a real, first-class show‘ said long time NFL scout Gil Brandt. Saying he might actually be drafted and not sign on somewhere as an undrafted free agent is quite something.
The last young Englishman to be drafted was Jack Crawford. He played collegiate football at Penn State so I saw a lot of him. They said he had all the natural ability in the world but he never converted it to the field of play. He was a good college player but was never great in his time with the Nittany Lions. He took up American Football very late as he moved to the States in his mid-teens but at least had a few years under his belt – including playing for one of the very best Defensive Line coaches in the game in Larry Johnson Snr. Okoye doesn’t have that but heck Crawford got drafted by the Oakland Raiders purely because of his raw ability.
If Okoye is going to make it then it is going to be because someone believes that he can be coached up – and pretty darn quickly. American Football is one of the toughest sports to learn on the fly because of all the intricacies of the game. The 21 year-old has said that five NFL clubs have contacted him and if that is the case then his stock is certainly improving.
With a proven athletic pedigree and dedication to training he might actually have a shot at making this dream come true. Should he succeed then he will put his discus and Team GB plans on hold. If he does get drafted it will probably be in the 6th or 7th rounds and when you consider that it is expected that one of the greatest linebackers I have ever seen – Michael Mauti – is expected to drop to those rounds due to concerns over his knee you’ve got to be impressed by Okoye because even if he doesn’t make it hell have got pretty darn close.
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