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Tribal Warfare
12-31-2006, 02:09 AM
http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061230/SPORTS0201/612300490/1002

The Cards' chapter of Okoye's story ends
Senior, 19, likely a high draft pick

By Jody Demling
jdemling@courier-journal.com
The Courier-Journal



MIAMI -- Anybody who knows -- or has heard -- anything about University of Louisville football surely knows the Amobi Okoye story.

He's the 19-year-old senior who got a scholarship with the Cardinals at age 15 and played 13 games as a freshman at the ripe old age of 16.



"I'm sure he's probably tired of hearing about all of that," U of L defensive line coach Kevin Wolthausen said of his youthful defensive tackle.

While his age is still one of the first topics of conversation, the talk about Okoye is changing gears a bit as the Cardinals prepare for the Orange Bowl.

Now the NFL draft status of the athletic Okoye is becoming a seriously hot topic.

"At 6-1, 310 pounds, he has Warren Sapp-like quickness," said Pete Prisco, CBS SportsLine.com senior writer.

Okoye is predicted as a first-round pick by nearly every mock NFL draft, and some predict he'll be a top-10 pick. ESPN's Mel Kiper projects him as the No. 5 senior in the draft, NFLDraftScout.com picks him as the No. 1 tackle and Prisco predicts he will be the No. 22 overall pick.

It's talk that some might not have expected before the season.

The Nigeria native had the talent and had played a key role for the Cardinals' defense for three seasons, but this year he's just been off-the-charts good.

Okoye's stock soared after he registered 49 tackles, including 12 tackles for a loss and six sacks, and was named a unanimous first-team All-Big East performer. He was named a second-team All-American by The Associated Press.

"I am really happy and proud," Okoye said. "This has been a great year. It's really great to see my name up there (on draft boards), especially for my family. It just shows everybody that I really do have a chance."

The chance might not have seemed real not so long ago for Okoye, who spent the first 12 years of his life in Nigeria, where American football wasn't a huge hit.

But his family moved to Huntsville, Ala., when his age would have put him in the seventh grade. Okoye passed an aptitude test and persuaded school officials to let him enroll in the ninth grade instead.

"I look at (the age thing) different," Okoye said. "I just thank God for everything and look at it like this is what I'm supposed to be doing."

No matter what his age, once Okoye arrived at U of L, it wasn't hard for the coaches to see there was going to be no keeping him off the field. As a freshman, he was the youngest player in college football and one of eight true freshmen to see time. Okoye played in all 13 games that season and had 17 tackles, and he also played in 11 of 12 games as a sophomore with 26 tackles.

His role grew in his junior year, when he had 49 tackles and six sacks but missed a game with a foot injury.

"Each year there was always a little something (injury-wise) where he could fully get to where he needed to get and then all of a sudden this year it was like, 'Hey, look, this is it,' " Wolthausen said.

Okoye has been a dominant force at times.

He's second on the team in sacks and tackles for a loss and had more than five tackles in each of four games. Okoye had four tackles for a loss against Syracuse, three against Kansas State and nine total tackles against Cincinnati.

"It has always been part-time hours the past three years," Okoye said. "Now it has been a full-time job this year and it has been great."

Okoye came into camp this year in better shape and is now one of the team's emotional leaders, Wolthausen said.

"This year (the NFL scouts) see a guy who is making plays," Wolthausen said. "He's going from sideline to sideline, able to rush the passer, playing against the run and understanding the game."

ESPN's Kiper evidently agrees. Okoye has been rising on his draft board throughout the season and the analyst now picks him as an early first-rounder.

"Okoye is quick and explosive and goes all-out on every play," Kiper says. "He is not only good at eating up space but also gets good penetration into the backfield."

All that is fine with Okoye, but he has one final assignment at U of L, when the Cards meet Wake Forest on Tuesday.

"I'm not satisfied," he said with a smile. "I hopefully get satisfied after this bowl game with a W. I want to close the end of the chapter of the book with a W.

"I want a W and all I can do (for himself) is keep raising my stock up."

KurtCobain
12-31-2006, 03:22 AM
it'd be nice to get him.

CHIEF4EVER
12-31-2006, 07:18 AM
Yeah, maybe he could show cRyan Sims what it means to actually TRY whilst on the football field.

cdcox
12-31-2006, 07:56 AM
I wonder if he gives out autographed pictures?