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.