Okoye hopes to follow the success of former Cardinals teammate Elvis Dumervil, who proved as a rookie for the Denver Broncos last season that undersized defensive linemen can have a major impact in the NFL.
With Dumervil having graduated, Okoye not only stepped up to fill the defense's leadership void, he proved to the scouts that he is primed to repeat the success Dumervil has experienced.
As a child, football was the furthest thought in Okoye's mind. He was born in Anambra, Nigeria, and moved to the United States as a pre-teen. He tested into the ninth grade as a 12-year-old when his family moved to Huntsville from Nigeria, and was the youngest player in college football (age 16) when he enrolled at Louisville in 2003.
Okoye took up football as a sophomore at Robert E. Lee High School, knowing next to nothing about the game. He started 13 games on the defensive line as a 13-year-old and played both ways, earning honorable mention All-State honors as a junior. The three-year letter winner logged 60 tackles and nine sacks, picking up first-team All-State honors on both sides of the ball as a senior.
Still, football was new to Okoye when he arrived on the Louisville campus. One of eight true freshmen to letter, the 16-year-old appeared in 13 games behind Tyrone Satterfield at strong-side defensive tackle. He finished his first season with 17 tackles (9 solos), a sack and two stops for losses. He also deflected two passes and caused a fumble.
In 2004, Okoye played behind Bobby Leffew at left tackle, but did earn his first career start in the Army game. He registered 26 tackles (11 solos) with a sack and two stops behind the line of scrimmage in 11 games, missing the East Carolina game with a right shoulder sprain.
As a junior, Okoye went on to start 10 of 11 contests at strong-side tackle. He sat out the Florida Atlantic game with a left foot sprain. With Okoye and fellow tackle Montavious Stanley clogging the middle of the field, it helped free up Elvis Dumervil, who registered 20 sacks and caused 11 fumbles from his end spot. Despite constant double-team coverage, Okoye posted 23 tackles (10 solos) with an assisted sack, four stops for losses and three fumble recoveries.
Firmly entrenched as the defense's leader in 2006, Okoye was a unanimous All-Big East Conference first-team choice. He recorded a career-high 58 tackles (38 solos) with eight sacks and 15 stops for losses. He also caused three fumbles.
In 48 games at Louisville, Okoye started 24 times. He finished with 121 tackles (68 solos), 10.5 sacks for minus-42 yards and 23 stops for losses totaling 81 yards. He registered three quarterback pressures and deflected three passes. He caused four fumbles and recovered three others.
Positives: Has a shorter than ideal frame, but shows adequate muscle tone, dropping more than 25 pounds of "baby fat" from the start of the 2006 season until arriving at Senior Bowl practices in January
Has the low center of gravity and lower body strength needed to man the nose guard or three-technique position
Plays until the whistle and it is rare to see him throttle down
Has made good strides in finishing on the play and has developed into a quick read-and-react type
Has the short-area explosion to slip past the center shooting the gaps
Keeps his feet on the move and uses his long arm reach effectively to prevent blockers from locking him up
Takes the plays from the chalkboard to the field with no problems
Very combative with his hands when taking on double-team action
Though short, he has the wide framed with a thick chest, loose hips and big thighs to hold ground firmly at the point of attack
Has sudden movements to get on the edge of a blocker, demonstrating natural hand strength and proper position to shed with ease
Very instinctive, reacting quickly to running schemes, as he is a quick twitch type, known to gain immediate advantage off the snap with his explosion
Plays with his head up and has developed a good feel to react quickly to block pressure
Knifes through the line with good urgency and has the natural strength to maintain leverage
His low center of gravity makes it tough for a blocker to move him out, and he shows good quickness in the gaps to disrupt the pocket (needs to finish better once he gets into the backfield, though)
Easily defeats the isolated blocker with strength and all-out effort
Is best when he gets on the center's head, as it allows him to burst quickly into the backfield to push the pocket
Adequate at flushing the quarterback out, but needs to be quicker when closing
Stacks the run at the point of attack, coming off the snap with a low, powerful leg drive
His low center of gravity allows him to gain leverage and opponents must use double-team blocking in order to contain him, as his hand usage usually knocks the blockers off stride
Does a good job of bending his knees and opening his hips to stack blocks and split the double team
Very active with his hands, working them across the face to defeat blockers
Takes good angles to the ball playing off the line, and is most effective when utilized to clog the inside rush lanes rather than pursue the passer.
Negatives: Shorter than ideal, causing problems when he fails to keep his hands active trying to fill the rush lanes and the center gets assistance in blocking him out (susceptible to cut blocks)
Can push the pocket, but seems to lack the closing burst needed to get to the quarterback consistently (needs to finish better)
His size could be a problem in a one-gap system
While he delivers punishing hand swipes in closed quarters, he can get reckless while operating in space
Does not possess sustained speed to pursue long distances, working better in the short area
Lost bulk to improve his stamina, but needs to put some back on to compete against the bigger blockers at the pro level
Very good in run containment, but he lacks pass rush moves despite eight sacks as a senior
Can move laterally with some effectiveness, but will struggle to redirect and is slow to recover when taking a wide loop in backside pursuit
Can push the pocket and has good initial quickness, but lacks the sudden speed to close on the quarterback
Even though he is known to clog the middle, only two of his 55 tackles in 2006 came inside the red zone.
Compares To: REGGIE WHITE-ex-Philadelphia/Green Bay
To compare a player to White is something that can not be done without much consideration. But the more you see Okoye on game films, the more convinced you become that he will not only have a long, fruitful career, but will continue to grow both physically and mentally. He has such great fire and plays with the relentless pace that made White the measuring stick for all other defensive linemen. He has the low center of gravity to play over the head of the center, the speed and explosion to shoot the gaps and the quickness to even move out and attack on the edge. Okoye is The NFL Draft Report's top-rated player for the 2007 draft.
Okoye was the youngest athlete to appear in a collegiate game in 2003 at age 16
The strongest player on the team, boasting a 475-pound bench press
His 15 tackles behind the line of scrimmage in 2006 tied Michael Josiah (2001) and Ted Washington (1990) for 11th place on the school's single-season record list.
All-American Dream Team selection by The NFL Draft Report
Unanimous first-team All-Big East Conference choice
Started all year at strong-side defensive tackle, but also played nose guard in the 3-4 alignment
Recorded 55 tackles (38 solos) and ranked second on the team with eight sacks for minus 34 yards and 15 stops for losses totaling 57 yards
Registered three quarterback pressures, caused three fumbles and deflected one pass
Made 49 of his plays vs. the run and nine vs. the pass
Credited with eleven third-down tackles (8 vs. the run) and two more on fourth-down action
Stopped the opposing ball carrier for no gain on three plays.
|2006 Game Analysis|
Made only one tackle in the season opener, but it was good for a 6-yard sack of QB Andre' Woodson on Kentucky's first drive of the game
Killed a third quarter series when Okoye batted down a Woodson fourth-&-3 pass at the UL 47
Head to Head Competition-OG#57-Hayden Lane.
Managed only one solo tackle
Head to Head Competition-OG#70-Elliott Seifert.
Caused a fumble, assisted on a stop behind the line of scrimmage and was in on five tackles (3 solos)
Stripped the ball from tailback Charlie Jones on a run off left guard and the ball was recovered by linebacker Nate Harris, setting up a Louisville 22-yard field goal in the first quarter
Assisted Zack Anderson in tackling fullback Tyrone Moss for a 3-yard loss on a rushing attempt at the start of the second half
Was penalized for roughing the kicker (punter Brian Monroe) at the start of the fourth quarter
Head to Head Competition-OG#64-Jason Fox.
Registered seven tackles (5 solos) with a pair of third-down stops, assisted on a sack and had two stops behind the line of scrimmage
Teamed with Jon Russell to bring down Carlos Alsup for a 1-yard loss on a run at the start of the third quarter
Also joined Brandon Sharp to sack QB Josh Freeman for a 5-yard loss on a third-&-9 play and then collapsed the protection on the next play, as Malik Jackson then blocked KSU's 40-yard field goal attempt at the end of the third quarter
Leveled tailback Thomas Clayton for a 2-yard loss on a fourth quarter rushing attempt
Head to Head Competition-OG#64-Nick Stringer.
Limited to a pair of tackles
Head to Head Competition-OG#73-Germayle Franklin.
Okoye preserved a 23-17 decision with a crucial sack on Cincinnati's final drive, as the defensive tackle posted a career-high nine tackles (6 solos)
Took down Greg Moore for a 1-yard loss on the second play of the second half
On third-&-7 from the UL 31, he brought down Butler Benton after a 1-yard run, forcing the Bearcats to attempt a failed 47-yard field goal on the next play
With 2:38 left to play, Okoye sacked QB Dustin Grutza, causing a fumble on the play
Talking about the game to reporters, Okoye said,
"The whole game they showed us some things we hadn't seen. The crowd was really loud on that last drive and communication was tough. We played our hearts out and got the win. Their running game showed us stuff we hadn't seen. They did a good job on their offense. We just have to go back to fundamentals and stop the run. We are practicing, practicing and practicing. Every game is a championship and everyone will come out and give you their best shot."
Head to Head Competition-OG#72-Digger Bujnoch.
Added five tackles with 2.5 sacks for minus 11 yards and four stops for losses of 15 yards
Sacked Perry Patterson for an 8-yard loss (along with Earl Heyman) on a third-&-16 play in the first quarter, forcing the Orange to punt
Teamed with William Gay to chase Patterson down after the QB caught his own deflected pass for an 8-yard loss later in the opening frame
Sacked Patterson for minus 6 yards at the start of the fourth quarter and with 1:43 left in the game, Okoye dropped Patterson again for a 1-yard loss
Head to Head Competition-OG#59-Carroll Madison.
Posted five tackles (4 solos)
Was hit with a personal foul penalty after a brief fight broke out between the teams trying to recover a third-&-1 fumble by the Mountaineers' Owen Schmitt at the WV 34 five minutes into the game
Made up for that miscue by causing another fumble when Okoye stripped the ball from QB Patrick White on a third-&-2 run up the middle of the field midway through the first quarter, but White recovered the ball
Head to Head Competition-OG#73-Jake Figner.
Only made three tackles, but registered three pressures, including one on third-&-7 that saw Mike Teel force an incomplete pass and Rutgers had to punt on the next play during the game's opening series
On third-&-8 late in the third quarter, Okoye sacked Teel for a 5-yard loss, forcing the Scarlet Knights to punt
Head to Head Competition-OG#71-Jeremy Zuttah.
Credited with two solo tackles
Head to Head Competition-OG#75-Walter Walker.
Limited to one solo stop
Head to Head Competition-OG#75-Mike McGlynn.
Bounced back with seven tackles (5 solos), including one that stopped Donald Brown for a 3-yard loss on an early fourth quarter run
Killed a second quarter drive when he tackled Lou Allen for no gain on a third-&-1 rushing attempt with 6:09 left in the first half
Head to Head Competition-OG#57-Matt Applebaum.
Wake Forest (Orange Bowl)
Closed out his career with six tackles (5 solos), two sacks for minus 10 yards and three stops for losses of 20 yards
Sniffed out the reverse, taking down receiver Willie Idlette for a 10-yard loss at the UL 44 midway through the first quarter
Sacked QB Riley Skinner for a 2-yard loss in the second quarter and sacked Skinner again for minus 8 yards with 4:57 remaining in a 24-13 victory
Head to Head Competition-OG#64-Jeff Griffin.
Started ten of eleven games he played in at left defensive tackle, coming off the bench vs. North Carolina
Sat out the Florida Atlantic clash with a left mid foot sprain
Finished with 23 tackles (10 solos), an assisted sack for minus 4 yards and four stops for losses of 17 yards
Also recovered three fumbles.
|2005 Game Analysis|
Posted three tackles, including one for a 4-yard loss.
Sacked QB Patrick White for a 4-yard loss and made 1.5 stops for minus 10 yards while collecting four tackles.
Tackled running back Brian Leonard for a 3-yard loss and delivered three hits (2 solos).
Virginia Tech (Gator Bowl)
Closed out his first season as a full-time starter with six tackles (3 solos) and assisted on a stop behind the line of scrimmage.
Played in eleven of twelve games, sitting out the East Carolina contest with a right shoulder sprain
Recorded 26 tackles (11 solos) with a 2-yard sack and two stops for losses of 4 yards
Earned his first career start at left defensive tackle vs. Army, cominmg up with a season-high seven tackles.
Became the youngest player in college football at 16-years-old
One of eight true freshman to letter, seeing action in thirteen games as a reserve strong-side defensive tackle
Recorded 17 tackles (9 solos) with a 2-yard sack and two stops for losses of 3 yards
Registered his first career sack vs. Texas-El Paso
Also caused a fumble and deflected two passes
Made three tackles in each of the Army and Memphis clashes
Posted a season-high four tackles vs. Tulane.
2004: Sat out the East Carolina game (9/30) with a right shoulder sprain.
2005: Did not play vs. Florida Atlantic (10/01) and saw limited action the following week vs. North Carolina due to a left mid foot sprain.
Campus: 4.97 in the 40-yard dash
475-pound bench press
Bench presses 225 pounds 33 times
605-pound back squat
352-pound hang clean
33 1/2-inch arm length
16/34 Wonderlic score.
Combine: 5.06 in the 40-yard dash
1.81 10-yard dash
2.96 20-yard dash
7.46 three-cone drill
30-inch vertical jump
9'3" broad jump
Bench pressed 225 pounds 29 times.
Attended Robert E. Lee (Huntsville, Ala.) High School, playing football for head coach David O'Connor
Took up football as a sophomore, knowing next to nothing about the game
Started 13 games on the defensive line as a 13-year-old and played both ways, earning honorable mention All-State honors as a junior
The three-year letter winner logged 60 tackles and nine sacks, picking up first-team All-State honors on both sides of the ball as a senior.
Son of Augustine and Edna Okoye
Born 6/10/87 in Anambra, Nigeria
Resides in Hunstville, Alabama.