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Olympian turned 49er Lawrence Okoye says he’s ready to play

okoye Getty Images

When the 49ers signed Lawrence Okoye last year, they knew he wouldn’t be very good at first. And Okoye admits that he wasn’t.

Okoye, who was born and raised in London and represented England as a discus thrower in the 2012 Olympics, signed with the 49ers last year and tried to learn how to play on the defensive line, eventually getting onto the field in the preseason just a few months after the first time he ever put on a football helmet. Okoye says he was terrible in the preseason and would be embarrassed to see film of how he looked against legitimate NFL offensive linemen.

I think I’d cringe if I saw it,” Okoye told ESPN.

Okoye suffered a knee injury and was waived in the preseason, but he’s back with the 49ers this year, and he says he thinks he’s a much better player now than he was a year ago.

“No comparison,” Okoye said. “Not even close.”

The 6-foot-6, 304-pound Okoye has watched more hours of film than he can count in the last year — film of defensive linemen who actually know what they’re doing, not his own game film — and says he now understands what he’s supposed to do on the football field and believes he can play.

“You can be as fast and strong as you want to be, but if you don’t know football you are going to get blown off the ball,” Okoye said. “I know the game now. It’s a tremendous difference.”

Okoye is still a long shot to make the 49ers’ roster, but he sounds like he’s taking his new sport seriously. Even if he’s not ready to play now, he’s only 22 years old, and he has the talent to reward the 49ers’ patience.

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21 Responses to “Olympian turned 49er Lawrence Okoye says he’s ready to play”
  1. i thumbs down your comment says: Jun 4, 2014 12:40 PM

    I feel that my years of playing Madden would help me run crossing routes.

  2. boobsanders says: Jun 4, 2014 12:43 PM

    The next Brock Lesnar. Enjoy it while it lasts, buddy. You’ll be out of a job in a couple months. Back to throwing disks around…

  3. robert831 says: Jun 4, 2014 12:45 PM

    This dude will end up being a solid to good player in a few years. He is built like a tank, talented, and has the needed work ethic and determination of an Olympian.

  4. sonoco says: Jun 4, 2014 12:45 PM

    It would be nice to be able to stash this guy on the practice squad for one more year of seasoning.

  5. mcfleezy12 says: Jun 4, 2014 12:46 PM

    dude is getting coached^

  6. marvin49 says: Jun 4, 2014 12:48 PM

    Just a quick note….

    The article states he was waived last year. He was actually waived/injured, so after he cleared waivers his rights reverted back to the 49ers and he spent the entire season on IR.

    IE, he’s been with the team the whole time and working with the 49ers D-Linemen and the D-Line coach, Jim Tomsula.

    He may never make it…just sayin, he didn’t get waived, work on his game on his own and then come back. He never left.

  7. sensiblecentrists says: Jun 4, 2014 12:48 PM

    Hopefully he can make the PS this year.

  8. wannabeqb says: Jun 4, 2014 12:53 PM

    I feel that my years of playing Madden would help me throw challenge flags further than anyone in the NFL

  9. yesser12 says: Jun 4, 2014 12:57 PM

    Cut by pre season. Don’t they have Tank Carradine or some other rookie that was on injury list?

  10. dc49er says: Jun 4, 2014 12:57 PM

    I understand this is all a business, but if this guy signs with a team off of our practice squad after we’ve put all this time into him…that’ll be a real slap in the face. If he’s smart, he’ll stay with Tomsula until he thinks he’s ready for the big show.

  11. thestrategyexpert says: Jun 4, 2014 1:00 PM

    Knowing is half the battle.

  12. bassplucker says: Jun 4, 2014 1:19 PM

    I think that Estonian dude from SMU has a better shot than this guy, but I wish them both the best. It’s good for the game when a decent player emerges from an unlikely place.

  13. time2speakup says: Jun 4, 2014 1:19 PM

    OK – so I am a Niner Total Fanatic to the core. There. However, if they are brain-dead enough to actually put this kid – amend that- make that “try” to put this guy on the PS, they will, in my humble opinion, reach the height of stupidity.

  14. goldrush36 says: Jun 4, 2014 1:33 PM

    This kid has heart but the only way he sticks is if he gets cut and someone doesn’t pillage him from the practice squad. Has a good shot of making it next year though. There is just a few teams with Dline depth that makes it incredibly hard for him to make it. Three of them reside in this very division. Smith, Dorsey, Williams, McDonald, Dial, Carradine, Jerod-Eddie. Possibly Okoye makes it, but it will be tough. Some good defensive lineman will be cut from the NFCW this year.

  15. jikkle49 says: Jun 4, 2014 1:48 PM

    Jim Tomsula is one of the best in the business and was a former NFL Europe coach so if Okoye has something to give Tomsula will get it out of him.

  16. braceyourselffor12 says: Jun 4, 2014 2:35 PM

    I was thrilled when they signed him if only because of his size and speed. His football acumen needed serious improvement but his work ethic is unmatched.

    This is the same guy who had never picked up a discus but within two years was representing England in the Olympics.

    I hope he can make it on the roster even if only as a situational guy as that’s the kind of athlete you want on your team.

  17. rs says: Jun 4, 2014 2:36 PM

    Okoye represented Great Britain at the Olympics, not England.

    Either way, I hope Okoye does well this year.

  18. thegreatgabbert says: Jun 4, 2014 2:40 PM

    He ran down Morris, a 4.3 cornerback who weighs 180, in the open field, during the special teams drills a couple days back. Don’t want to give up on that kind of freakish athleticism too quickly.

  19. southpaw79 says: Jun 4, 2014 2:57 PM

    Imagine if this guy could catch! 6’6″ 300+ with speed! That would revolutionize the tight end position.

  20. rainponcho87 says: Jun 5, 2014 1:22 AM

    Hope they can find a spot for him on special teams. Can you imagine trying to take this guy on while he’s running full speed down from kickoffs? That would be an easy business decision for a lot of players….

  21. 9balthazar9 says: Jun 7, 2014 3:00 AM

    I’m sure that the 49ers have already considered this, but I can’t help thinking that Okoye’s combo of speed and raw force would make him a perfect lead blocker when SF goes to its Jumbo set.

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