Lions beat writer Dave Birkett is reporting that the San Francisco 49ers hosted former British rugby player and Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye for a visit on Wednesday. Okoye has never played a down of American football, but the Olympian took part in the recent Super Regional Combine and impressed teams in attendance. He is the current British record-holder in the discus throw.
The NFL Combine is well known, but there are also smaller combines. The NFL hosts regional combines around the country, and then has a Super Regional Combine, hosted in Dallas this year. Okoye was in the US training for the discus throw when he learned of one of the regional combines in Atlanta. He applied and took part. He did well enough to earn an invite to the Super Regional Combine in Dallas. That took place this past weekend, and he once again impressed. Okoye is 6'5, 308 pounds, and according to reports, he ran a 4.78 40-yard dash. He also had a 10'5 broad jump and a 35 inch vertical jump. He also ran a 6.69 three cone drill, which would have been a top-ten time at the NFL Combine.
There is no doubting Okoye has the confidence to make this big career change:
‘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.'
Okoye, who is 21-years old, says he has been a fan of the NFL for some time, so he would not be coming in completely cold turkey. However, there would be a sizable learning curve on the technical side of things. The 49ers are one of the few teams with enough roster depth to take their time developing him.
Okoye said teams have projected him as a defensive end, and given his size that makes sense. He would seem to have the skills to be a great edge rusher, but if he could reach his mammoth potential, his combination of size and speed could provide a pretty impressive long-term solution at defensive end.
We should not get ahead of ourselves by any stretch. He is pretty much all potential at this point. It could turn out well, or he could end up flaming out if he can't pick up the technique and nuances of the game. Fortunately, if he did come to the 49ers, he would be working with one of the best defensive line coaches in the game, in Jim Tomsula. Maybe it would work out, maybe it wouldn't. Either way it would be an interesting story to track.