How raw is Lawrence Okoye, the British discus thrower, when it comes to football?
The San Francisco 49ers signed the freakish athlete as an undrafted free agent even though he’s never played a down of football in his life – at any level.
But you cannot coach what Okoye has – a 6-6, 304-pound frame with the athletic ability to run the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds and a 35-inch vertical jump.
Okoye said he put on shoulder pads and a helmet for the first time during a pre-draft visit with the New Orleans Saints.
“It was quite interesting,” he said, according to Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote a compelling story worth checking out. “They’re not as heavy as I thought.”
Okoye had a couple opportunities but said he liked the fact that 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has worked with raw players before during his stint as an assistant coach in NFL Europe.
“His background in NFL Europe was something that really appealed to me,” Okoye said. “Obviously, he’s worked with guys that have hardly played the game before. He sees potential in me and he’s made it clear that he wants to take me all the way. That’s something I’m really happy about. I can’t wait to work with him day in and day out.”
Okoye has been working out to prepare for his opportunity but Tomsula has told him not to worry about any football drills until he arrives. They’re going to start with the very basics – literally.
“They’ve made it very clear that they know it’s a long process,” Okoye said. “They’re not going to cut me after three weeks. They understand where I’m at and where I need to go. We’ll start from scratch and we’re going to work our way all the way to the top. That’s the only reason why they’re working with me: They believe they can do that. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be wasting their time. They’re realistic about what’s ahead, but they’re also optimistic that there’s a future for me in this league.”
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune