Speaking of smart, Amobi Okoye could have gone to Harvard at the age of 15. But the native Nigerian opted to play at a school with a stronger football program at the University of Louisville. First introduced to the game as an underage high schooler, Okoye learned about American Football by playing Madden NFL, the video game. The youngest player in the NCAA when he was a true freshman at age 16, Okoye played four years at Louisville. In his senior season, the 6’2, 302 lb., 19-year old recorded 55 tackles and eight sacks.
Despite missing only two games in his four years in Houston, Okoye struggled with injuries. A high-ankle sprain added to his sophomore slump in 2008. The following offseason, arthroscopic knee surgery slowed down his progress as well. The Texans seemed a bit baffled with what to do with Okoye, even asking him to shed 32 lbs at one point. They believed he had another level to reach but he never did. Competition, a switch to the 3-4 defense, a large salary and his low production ended Okoye’s career in Houston in 2011. His exit opened the doorway for 2011 first round pick J.J. Watt.
Then Chicago Bear’s defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli signed Okoye the very day he was released. The old ball coach liked what he saw in him during the draft scouting process back in 2007. Used primarily as a rotation player in the 4-3 defense, Okoye recorded his best numbers since his rookie season under Marinelli. (27 tackles, four sacks)
A free agent again in 2012, Okoye had a short stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that was cut short due to a lingering knee injury. The Bears once again snatched him up and he continued his role with them on a limited basis. He was cut by Chicago in late November of that year and then brought back two weeks later. Last season, Okoye sat out the entire year due to an undisclosed medical issue.He’s now signed a two-year contract to join the Cowboys. Here’s what Dallas head coach Jason Garrett told the Dallas Morning News about the Cowboys newest addition during his press conference on Friday:
“We like a lot of things about him, he was a high draft pick a few years ago and a really young player coming out of school. He has a lot of talent. Rod (Marinelli) was around him in Chicago, so we know him well, have an intimate type relationship, so we think that’s a real positive thing. He’s had some health issues the last year or so where he’s lost a lot of weight. He’s gained his weight back and we’re still waiting on some medical things, but we feel like he has a chance to be a contributor on that defensive line.”
The six-year veteran will only be 27-years old when the season starts. Okoye has potential but the clock is running out. This is obviously a Marinelli guy who knows this defensive scheme and has played behind Cowboy free agent defensive tackle Henry Melton before. This familiarity should aid in Okoye’s return to the NFL. Let’s hope he makes the most of this opportunity.