British discus record-holder Lawrence Okoye impresses scouts

Former Olympian Lawrence Okoye moved closer to the NFL on Sunday. (USATSI)

We told you last month about Great Britain discus record-holder Lawrence Okoye’s quest to make it to the NFL months after a disappointing effort in the 2012 London Olympics.

Now, after an eye-popping performance at the NFL Super Regional Combine, Okoye’s dream may be closer to reality. The former British rugby player and discus thrower turned heads with a time of 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash and a 35-inch vertical jump at Sunday’s event in Dallas. Okoye (6-6, 248) also posted a 10-foot-5 broad jump and a shuttle of 4.38 seconds. Okoye’s speed figures are just a step below the freakish numbers Seahawks defensive end Bruce Irvin turned in at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine.

Okoye, who has never played football, is being considered as an outside pass rusher. Entering Sunday’s Combine, Okoye said he received interest from five NFL teams.

“He was unbelievably active and incredibly explosive in drills,” longtime NFL Draft talent evaluator Gil Brandt said. “It was a real first-class show.”

Okoye first decided to give football a shot after moving to the United States to train in warmer weather. The British athlete received a second chance to impress scouts following a decent showing at a regional combine in Atlanta last month.

“At the combine, I really stood out because of my size, strength and speed,” Okoye told The Daily Mail of the United Kingdom. “I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I was good on the day -- to the point that a lot of NFL clubs began talking to me immediately on the back of it.”

At last summer’s Olympics, Okoye became the first British athlete to compete in the discus finals since 1984, but disappointed his countrymen by finishing 12th overall (61.03 meters). Robert Harting of Germany captured gold with a throw of 68.27 meters. Harting’s throw landed three centimeters further than Okoye’s career personal-best of 68.24.

Okoye could be the latest athlete to make the transition from rugby to the NFL. Last April, Hayden Smith, an Australian-born former rugby union player, signed a three-year deal with the Jets. The 6-6, 255-pound tight end had one catch for 16 yards last season.

Okoye will put plans to study law at Oxford, as well as his discus career, on hold if he earns a spot with an NFL team.

"I’ve always been a huge NFL fan for as long as I can remember. Whenever I’ve arrived in the States the customs officers always ask me who I play for,” Okoye told the Daily Mail. “I want to give this my best shot. It’s a rare life opportunity.” 

Keep your eye on everything NFL by following Matt Rybaltowski on Twitter @mattrybaltowski.

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