As soon as the 2013 NFL Draft ended, the San Francisco 49ers got to work negotiating with undrafted free agents. The deals are not yet "official", but the team has reportedly come to terms with ten players. One of those players is British discus-thrower Lawrence Okoye.
The former rugby player has never played football, but his dad played defensive end at Nebraska, and the younger Okoye is interested in the game. He comes to the 49ers with raw athleticism that is kind of ridiculous. He's 6'5'', 308 pounds and ran a 4.78-40 at a regional combine. He'll get a chance to work with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, which strikes me as an ideal situation. Tomsula is a great coach, and if anybody can get the most out of Okoye, it would be Tomsula.
Thankfully, as great of an athlete as Okoye is, he recognizes that he has a long way to go before he will be NFL-ready. Yesterday afternoon, he posted a brief message on his Facebook page:
I'm absolutely thrilled and honoured to be joining the San Francisco 49ers and I must thank the franchise for the wonderful trust and support they've already placed in me. It's truly humbling.
It really is a dream come true to have even got this far, but I'm under no illusions, this is where the hard work really starts. Like I did with my rugby, and then most recently in my discus career, I intend to immerse myself in American football and work around the clock to pay back the support of the franchise and over time realise my potential in the sport.
I was incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to represent my country in a home-town Olympic Games, in a sport I love, and I'm counting my blessings I have another opportunity to fulfil my other childhood dream.
As I say though, now is the time for hard work and to get my head down. Thank you so much for all the wonderful support you've given me, it's a huge motivation, and you have my word, I will give it everything I've got.
Earlier yesterday, Okoye engaged in a Q&A on Twitter with his fans under the designation #AskLawrence. He took a ton of questions and only stopped because he got put in Twitter jail for sending out too many tweets in a short span (that actually does happen).
Okoye did a good job answering different questions and not answering the same questions multiple times. He indicated he was in Georgia at his agent's training facility when the deal got worked out. It is my understanding that it is the same facility where Colin Kaepernick has been working out, but I'm not positive.
Okoye emphasized that he is looking to simply develop as much as he can at this point, rather than concern himself as to when he'll be ready to start playing in actual games. He mentioned it would be "fun" to get in on special teams, which I'd say might be as close to the game of rugby as anything else in football.
Give his Twitter account a look when you get a few minutes.