49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

April 11, 2013
From discus to d-line? 49ers host British Olympian


A 6-6, 304-pound mountain of muscle who ran his 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds and who can broad-jump nearly 10 ½ feet? Yes, it's safe to say the 49ers are intrigued by Lawrence Okoye, who visited Santa Clara Wednesday, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Okoye's rather prominent blemish - he's never played American football before. Instead he is a British Olympic discus thrower who has a rugby background and who says he's a long-time NFL fan. Okoye's combination of size and speed caught the NFL's attention at the super regional Combine in Dallas this week, and teams - presumably including the 49ers - are looking at him as a defensive end.

"I came over to the States for warm-weather training for my discus," Okoye told the London Daily Mail last month. "But when I saw that there was an American football regional combine taking place in Atlanta, I applied online. And when I passed, I went along.

"At the combine, I really stood out because of my size, strength and speed. 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. They all see me as a defensive end, which suits me just fine."

Adding someone who's never donned a helmet to an NFL squad seems like a stretch. But it's not out of the realm of possibility. BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah, a native of Ghana, only has been playing football for three years. And yet Ansah is likely to be a Top 10 draft pick on April 25.

If Okoye gets drafted, it likely will be in the sixth or seventh round by a team that has the luxury of developing someone as raw as him. The 49ers, of course, have 13 picks in the upcoming draft, including five in the final two rounds.

They also have a defensive line coach, Jim Tomsula, who spent nine seasons coaching in NFL Europe, including players with minimal background in American football. In the offseasons, Tomsula conducts coaching clinics on American football in Italy. That is, Tomsula and the 49ers are particularly well suited to teach someone with Okoye's experience.

49ers draft picks
1. First round, No. 31 (No. 31 overall): Own pick
2. Second round, No. 2 (No. 34 overall): From Kansas City for Alex Smith
3. Second round, No. 31 (No. 61 overall): Own pick 
4. Third round, No. 12 (No. 74 overall): From Carolina in trade during 2012 draft 
5. Third round, No 31 (No. 93 overall): Own pick 
6. Fourth round, No. 31 (No. 128 overall): Own pick 
7. Fourth round, No. 34 (No. 131 overall): Compensatory
8. Fifth round, No. 24 (No. 157 overall): From Indianapolis in trade during 2012 draft 
9. Sixth round, No. 5 (No. 173 overall): From Cleveland in Colt McCoy trade
10. Sixth round, No. 12 (No. 180 overall): From Miami in trade-back during 2012 draft 
11. Seventh round, No. 31 (No. 237 overall): Own pick
12. Seventh round, No. 40, (No. 246 overall): Compensatory
13. Seventh round, No. 46, (No. 252 overall): Compensatory

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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