Lawrence Okoye, an English track and field athlete who came in 12th in the discus at last year’s Olympics, has a new athletic ambition: Making it in the NFL.
Okoye wrote on Twitter today that he is making American football his primary priority.
“Just wanted to confirm that I have decided that I want to play American Football in the NFL,” Okoye wrote.
The 6-foot-6, 294-pound Okoye looks the part of an NFL defensive end, and he said after attending one of the NFL’s regional combines that he got good feedback from NFL coaches — good enough that he now plans to put all his focus on making it in the NFL, to the point where he’s planning to skip this summer’s world championships in the discus.
“I came over to the States for warm-weather training for my discus,” Okoye told the Daily Mail. “But when I saw that there was an American Football Regional Combine taking place in Atlanta, I applied online. And when I passed, I went along. At the combine, I really stood out because of my size, strength and speed. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I was good on the day — to the point that a lot of NFL clubs began talking to me immediately on the back of it. They all see me as a defensive end, which suits me just fine. I’ve had some meetings since, and done some private workouts with some clubs, too, and already they are talking to me about contracts even before the Super Combine in Dallas next weekend. I’m talking about some of the best known and biggest teams. With the college drafts not taking place until the end of April, I won’t be officially signing anything or becoming a pro footballer until then, but I have no reason to believe that it’s not going to happen.”
The 21-year-old Okoye is eligible to be drafted, although it seems unlikely that any team will use a pick on a player who has never played American football at any level. However, there’s a good chance some team will sign him as an undrafted free agent. And if he’s serious about football and willing to put in the work, there’s a real chance he’ll be on an NFL field some day.
Michael Davis Smith for NBC Sports