May 1, 2013, 1:37 PM EDT
He may have never played a down of American football – ever – but British discus champ Lawrence Okoye, who San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh has called an “adonis” and a “beautiful man,” has the work ethic to make a difference now that he’s signed a deal with the 49ers.
Because Okoye admits that he was pretty “terrible” at the discus when he started only three years ago. That was, of course, before breaking the British national record and landing in the event finals at his hometown London Games, finishing twelfth.
“I had to work really hard to become good at [discus]. It’s going to be the same path in this sport,” Okoye told the San Jose Mercury News.
“I’m not going to be as good as everybody else. I’m going to look out of place… But with some work and with time and effort, I know I can catch up and hopefully become a dominant player in the league.”
Okoye, who never even put on a set of pads before meeting with the Saints this spring, will work with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, who spent some time in NFL Europe and knows how to train up a novice in the sport. But despite his size and determination, and an impressive 4.78-seconds forty time at the combine, Okoye is humble about his role with a Niners team fresh off a Super Bowl appearance.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to kick Justin Smith or Ray McDonald out of their positions and I’m going to get 20 sacks next year. Of course not… It’s all about development. I’m going to develop every day.”
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