April 28, 2007

NFL Draft -- I'm Happy With Texans Pick

With Brady Quinn still on the board, I expected the Texans to take him or trade the pick. They didn't. Nor did they try to shore up the weak offensive line that was largely responsible for the destruction of David Carr as a useful quarterback.

Instead, for the fourth straight year, they went with a defensive player in the first round. Frankly, I was stunned -- but the more I have researched the player selected, the better I feel about it.

Who did they pick?

Amobi Okoye -- Defensive tackle out of Louisville.

Height: 6'2"

Weight: 302

In four years at Louisville, Okoye started 24 games. He finished with 121 tackles, 10.5 sacks for minus-42 yards and 23 stops for losses totaling 81 yards. He caused four fumbles and recovered three others.

But that isn't the only thing I love about this kid. His story is amazing. Born in Nigeria, he started high school at age 12, played football for the first time at 13, and made his first college sack at age 15. Now 19, he earned a degree in psychology in 3 1/2 years.

One of the biggest challenges was in 1999 when Okoye moved to Huntsville, Ala., from Nigeria. Because he had started school in Nigeria at 2 1/2 , he was in the ninth grade at 12. The principal in Huntsville was skeptical.

"The principal wanted to send me back to eighth grade," Okoye said at the NFL scouting combine. "I disagreed and felt like I was getting pushed back. We came to an agreement. She decided 'I'll keep you here for two weeks and depending on how you perform determines if you stay or not.'

"After the first week, she put me in some classes I had already taken. The reports got back, and the teacher told her I had to be moved to upper classes. After that, I stayed in high school."

Soon thereafter, a substitute teacher saw Okoye's size and encouraged him to try out for football. Okoye played soccer in Nigeria and knew nothing about football.

At 13, he started his first game on varsity and a year later, he was starting on both sides of the ball. By 15, he signed with Louisville and became the youngest player in college football when he enrolled in 2003 at 16.

He played in 13 games as a true freshman, despite then-Louisville coach Bobby Petrino saying Okoye couldn't step on the field until he needed to shave.

"I knew he was serious, but deep inside he wanted to play me," Okoye said. "I went out there and proved myself, and he went and got me a razor."

By his junior season, Okoye was a starter. As a senior, he was the defensive leader and recorded a career-high 58 tackles with eight sacks and 15 stops for losses. He also caused three fumbles.

And at age 20, he will start his first NFL game.

Damn! I may just need to get myself a new Texan's jersey. And I certainly have a role model for my students.

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Comments on NFL Draft -- I'm Happy With Texans Pick

I wonder if he is related to the "Nigerian Nightmare," former Chiefs running back Christian Okoye? His Wikipedia entry doesn't mention anything about it. More likely, Okoye is a fairly common name in Nigeria.

|| Posted by dan, April 29, 2007 07:17 AM ||

No relation whatsoever -- so it must be at least somewhat common in Nigeria.

Either that, or one hell of a coincidence.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, April 29, 2007 05:23 PM ||
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NAME: Greg
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