Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Okoye knows he’s starting from square one

Lawrence Okoye

British Olympian Lawrence Okoye runs position drills with the defensive ends group during the NFL super regional football combine Sunday, April 7, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)


The 49ers think they have an intriguing prospect to develop in former Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye.

But before they teach him how to rush a quarterback, they need to start with the basics — putting on pants.

Okoye put on a helmet and shoulder pads for the first time during a visit with the Saints, and knows he has to take his football education one leg at a time.

It was quite interesting,” he said of putting on pads for the first time, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “They’re not as heavy as I thought.”

Neither are the 49ers expectations, immediately.

The 6-foot-6, 304-pounder has all the measurables you’d ever want (4.78-second 40, 35-inch vertical), a remarkable combination of size and explosiveness. That showed when the 21-year-old set the British record in the discus two years after taking up the sport.

“Our Creator created a beautiful man,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said.

Still, the whole never-having-played-football thing is still a thing.

But 49ers line coach Jim Tomsula, who worked in NFL Europe’s developmental program, told Okoye he had what it took to succeed. To be honest, Okoye hasn’t played that much less football than Ziggy Ansah, who was the fifth pick in the draft

“I’m not going to put any limits on myself,” he said. “Nobody would have predicted when I was 18 that I would be the British record holder and an Olympic finalist. I’m not going to sit here and put limits on myself, but I’m also not going to say that I’m going to kick [49ers defensive tackles] Justin Smith or Ray McDonald out of their positions and I’m going to get 20 sacks next year. Of course not. For me, when I get the 49ers it’s all about development. I’m going to develop every day.”

Beginning with learning how to put on a full uniform.

“Luckily, when we first get to camp we don’t have to put pads on until July,” Okoye said. “Hopefully, between now and then I’ll have some practice and will be able to do it sufficiently well so I don’t embarrass myself in the locker room.”

He’s still expected to spend the year on the practice squad — if that — but was worth a flier based on his unique physical skills. Assuming they can get him dressed, of course.