The 49ers were expecting to have to teach and develop rookie defensive end Lawrence Okoye.
So when the former English Olympic discus thrower put on pads for the first time this offseason, no one expected him to look natural.
But 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he’s been impressed with how Okoye has looked so far in training camp.
“The most noticeable thing is he appears to be a better player in pads, which wasn’t going to be my first thought,” Harbaugh said, via Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com. “His arm length really shows up in pads. He was wearing pads, other guys wearing pads. Now, the arm length, to be able to put his hands on somebody and lock them up, was noticeable.”
Okoye’s a physically gifted project, but the whole never-having-played football thing will be an issue he’s going to have to overcome. He said his rugby background helps, but wearing a helmet and “being able to lead with your face,” changed things for him.
“I was happy with the way I dealt with it,” Okoye said. “It’s very different than OTAs and football school when you haven’t got the helmet on and the pads on. Obviously, I’m still not doing a lot of things correctly. But I’m taking on guys and I’m holding my own. That’s as much as I can expect of myself at the moment.”
That’s true for most undrafted rookies at this stage of camp, but the 49ers knew he’d be a process when they signed him.