British discus thrower Lawrence Okoye is one of the most interesting players that will join the NFL as part of the 2013 rookie class. Okoye has no experience playing organized football, but he certainly has the raw physical talent to make it if he can hone in his skills and develop with proper coaching. His lack of experience caused him to go undrafted, but the San Francisco 49ers are ready to give him a chance.
Before Okoye can make an impact on the field, he will need to learn the basics. That starts with knowing how to put on the pads.
“It was quite interesting,” Okoye said via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “They’re not as heavy as I thought.
“Luckily, when we first get to camp we don’t have to put pads on until July. Hopefully, between now and then I’ll have some practice and will be able to do it sufficiently well so I don’t embarrass myself in the locker room.”
Okoye stands at 6-foot-6 and tips the scales at 304-pounds. His 4.78-second 40-yard dash caught the attention of NFL scouts. The 49ers are prepared to give him that shot.
49ers line coach Jim Tomsula worked in NFL Europe’s developmental program and he believes Okoye has what it takes to make it. At just 21 years old, he certainly has room to grow as a player and there is no denying his potential. It is hard to see the 49ers giving up on this project anytime this season, but it will take a lot of work if Okoye wants to make an active roster.
Okoye knows the challenge ahead of him and he is prepared to take it head on.
“I’m not going to put any limits on myself,” he said. “Nobody would have predicted when I was 18 that I would be the British record holder and an Olympic finalist. I’m not going to sit here and put limits on myself, but I’m also not going to say that I’m going to kick [49ers defensive tackles] Justin Smith or Ray McDonald out of their positions and I’m going to get 20 sacks next year. Of course not. For me, when I get the 49ers it’s all about development. I’m going to develop every day.”
If he can develop in to the kind of player his physical skill set shows that he could be, the 49ers will have gotten a steal as an undrafted free agent.