Chasing the American dream; Okoye pursues the Patriots
Britain’s former Olympic discus thrower Lawrence Okoye had a tryout with Super Bowl champions New England Patriots this week as the 23-year-old continues his attempt to make it in the NFL.
While their star quarterback Tom Brady tries to shake off the shame of the deflategate scandal, the team are busy preparing their side for the super bowl defence and had nine free agents visit Gillette Stadium this week for trials, one of whom was Okoye, according to a report by ESPN.
For the past three seasons, Okoye has been a fringe player with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Londoner was a promising rugby player in his teens before focusing on the discus, in which he won the European Under-23 Championships in 2011 and made the Olympic final, finishing 12th, in 2012.
The following year, he announced his intentions to play in the NFL and despite having no background in the sport, he had interest from several teams after running the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds during the draft. He eventually signed with the 49ers, reportedly earning $400,000 in his first year, but has had scant playing time in the years since.
In 2014 he was cut from the roster before being added to the practice squad, but last week he was waived as the 49ers reduced their roster to 53 players, allowing Okoye to seek employment elsewhere.
In an interview last year, Okoye said he had no plans to return to the discus and was fully intent on making it as an American footballler.
“I definitely feel like I’m good enough to play,” he told the 49ers website. “I haven’t been in previous years, but I feel like I am now. That’s not me being arrogant or anything, that’s just looking at the facts. I’m capable of lining up and playing ball.
“I remember when I got here, the first thing Jimmy (Tomsula) told me was that, ‘If you want to play in the NFL and want to play defensive lineman, the best place to be is here, so being here has gotten me to a point where I can say, ‘I can play in the NFL.’