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Okoye knows he’s starting from square one

Lawrence Okoye AP

The 49ers think they have an intriguing prospect to develop in former Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye.

But before they teach him how to rush a quarterback, they need to start with the basics — putting on pants.

Okoye put on a helmet and shoulder pads for the first time during a visit with the Saints, and knows he has to take his football education one leg at a time.

It was quite interesting,” he said of putting on pads for the first time, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “They’re not as heavy as I thought.”

Neither are the 49ers expectations, immediately.

The 6-foot-6, 304-pounder has all the measurables you’d ever want (4.78-second 40, 35-inch vertical), a remarkable combination of size and explosiveness. That showed when the 21-year-old set the British record in the discus two years after taking up the sport.

“Our Creator created a beautiful man,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.

Still, the whole never-having-played-football thing is still a thing.

But 49ers line coach Jim Tomsula, who worked in NFL Europe’s developmental program, told Okoye he had what it took to succeed. To be honest, Okoye hasn’t played that much less football than Ziggy Ansah, who was the fifth pick in the draft

“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.”

Beginning with learning how to put on a full uniform.

“Luckily, when we first get to camp we don’t have to put pads on until July,” Okoye said. “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.”

He’s still expected to spend the year on the practice squad — if that — but was worth a flier based on his unique physical skills. Assuming they can get him dressed, of course.

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24 Responses to “Okoye knows he’s starting from square one”
  1. trollhammer20 says: May 1, 2013 8:57 AM

    This is a great publicity stunt that will ensure the Niners have home-field advantage when they travel to London later this year.

    In terms of football production, though, for some reason, Renaldo Nehemiah is coming to mind….

  2. dohpey28 says: May 1, 2013 9:07 AM

    The one thing you can’t teach is the willingness to be hit. Discus throwing is as far from a contact sport as you can get.

  3. jjthesportsguy says: May 1, 2013 9:08 AM

    This will be fun to watch throughout training camp. Have to be rooting for a guy like this…unless you’re a Seahawks fan, I guess.

  4. mikebyrne1502 says: May 1, 2013 9:23 AM

    It’s not a pr stunt do you think owners want to spend and waste money, I’m sure this guy made his first billion thinkin “hey I’m going to waste money so I can have a little edge overseas” probably not… My guess is and it’s uneducated of course, is the guy is 6’6 304lbs, I’m sure plenty of teams wanted this guy, the niners just seem to be the team that got him.

  5. aberystwyth2 says: May 1, 2013 9:27 AM

    Since he’s British, they are trousers! Pants are what you were under your trousers!

  6. kleppnasty says: May 1, 2013 9:38 AM

    Can they risk putting him on the practice squad? I think if they want to keep this guy, he’s going to have to make the team. Since he’s a rugby player, I don’t see how hard it would be to put him on the kick off team until he learns how to play DE. His physical freakness is worth promotiing him over some other special team player (sorry Dixon) and I have to guess another team would snag him if the 9ers put him on the practice squad.

  7. Rick Spielman is a Magician says: May 1, 2013 9:41 AM

    I wish him luck, but there’s a big difference between learning how to throw a heavy frisbee and learning how to play in the NFL.

  8. kelmcc says: May 1, 2013 9:55 AM

    Nehamiah’s downfall was that he couldn’t shake, or didn’t learn to shake, double-teams in the three years he played football. He did get a Super Bowl ring, and had the role and is credited with drawing downfield double teams that freed up the other WRs. Unfortunately, the 49ers drafted another receiver after his third year that was pretty good.

  9. marvsleezy says: May 1, 2013 9:59 AM

    British World record holder? Maybe he will be the best British player in the NFL too, its still not saying much.

  10. psilenttype says: May 1, 2013 10:04 AM

    Just a prime example of why the NFL needs a minor league system, beneficial to the NFL, players, and the game!

  11. questforthesixthnotthelast2013 says: May 1, 2013 10:25 AM

    They do have a .minor league, rarely used CFL.
    Yeah if he goes to the practice squad, other teams will probably snag him, but if he goes there is he really considered a great prospect? I mean, its the niners coaching staff, if they thought he would be capable, do you think they’d put him there?

  12. questforthesixthnotthelast2013 says: May 1, 2013 10:29 AM

    As for the home field advantage, do you honestly believe there are more jag fans in Britain than niners fans?
    They have it posted on the schedule as an away game so this be crazy, the home team will be the least represented team.

  13. jbniner says: May 1, 2013 10:43 AM

    Strictly from a value standpoint I think I’d rather have Okoye (UFA, no risk) than Ansah (#5 overall) at this point in time. Both are projects, with one having slightly more seasoning. Ansah had two years to crack the line up and was a beast when he finally did his senior season. However, I believe that a pro-level staff might be able to tap Okoye’s potential faster than a college level staff did Ansah’s.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens.

  14. yssupasigninnamnotyep says: May 1, 2013 11:08 AM

    “Our Creator created a beautiful man.”

    So is Harbaugh the next one to come out?

  15. thegreatgabbert says: May 1, 2013 11:16 AM

    Lawrence put on his pants one leg at a time. Which prompted Tomsula to remark, “He’s a really quick study, and seems to be a regular guy.”.

  16. johnelwayishorsefaced says: May 1, 2013 11:57 AM

    I think it was probably his parents who created him. Who is this Creator he’s talking about? Is his dad’s name Our Creator Okoye?

  17. norcalsportsknowledge says: May 1, 2013 12:16 PM

    The guy played rugby, so he is used to contact sports. They will keep it simple for him and just let him get after QB’s. Hopefully he can have success like Michael Carter, who threw the shot-put.

  18. hurricane73 says: May 1, 2013 12:39 PM

    Yes, THIS is what will give the 49ers an advantage when playing the JAGUARS!

    Do you REALLY think that they would spend time with a coaching a player for ONE GAME against a team they would beat nearly every time they played?

  19. eatitfanboy says: May 1, 2013 1:12 PM

    Okoye was in the development program of the London Wasps Rugby Club as a teenager and turned down multiple requests from professional rugby clubs last year to pursue discus.

    If you were only to read this article, you would think the kid had never played a sport that involved running with a ball, physical contact, or open field tackling before.

    I know it sounds like a more interesting story to ignore his rugby background and act like he’s never hit anyone before, but it’s a little disingenuous.

  20. kleppnasty says: May 1, 2013 1:33 PM

    jbniner, you read my mind. Ansah very well could be better in the long run, but if I can get a guy with similar athleticism and about equal “project” level to the #5 pick in the draft as an UDFA, I think it’s a steal. As most scouts said, in three years Ansah will be a probowl level player or out of the league, Okoye will be the same, but at a fraction of the cost/risk.

  21. ty49er4life says: May 1, 2013 1:44 PM

    Wish him well

  22. jm91rs says: May 1, 2013 3:03 PM

    Cool story and I hope he makes it, but I see this as a Brian Banks type of situation. If the guy is good enough to get a shot in the NFL, surely someone would have given him a scholarship to play big time college football next year. It’s going to take a full year of football training to just get decent, and NFL teams may not be willing to give him that attention and roster spot for a year, if he doesn’t make it now I guess he can try Canada until he figures it all out.

  23. wininer says: May 1, 2013 4:59 PM

    For those concerned Abbott another team snagging this guy its unlikely to happen. Okoye wants to be a Niner and as witnessed last season when we had 2 diff players refuse claims, just cause a team makes a claim doesn’t mean the player has to go.

  24. sixjak says: May 1, 2013 11:15 PM

    As a former rugby player I’m sure he’s well aware of that sport’s unofficial motto which is thus: Pads are for p*****s”. I’m sure he’s engaged in “contact” before.

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