Lawrence Okoye’s American football dream continues

UK discus record-holder to sign with NFL side San Francisco 49ers as an undrafted free agent

Lawrence Okoye (Mark Shearman)

Olympian Lawrence Okoye is to sign with the San Francisco 49ers, he announced on Sunday.

Although he wasn’t selected on the final day of the NFL draft, the British discus record-holder with 68.24 tweeted “Should be making an announcement shortly,” before confirming that he will be signing with the 49ers, but as an undrafted free agent.

“Proud to announce that I will be signing with the San Francisco @49ers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” tweeted the 21-year-old, with his message provoking both replies of congratulations and also ones of sorrow that he will be departing the world of athletics, at least for the time being.

Speaking after the draft, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh is reported to have labelled Okoye an ‘Adonis’.

“He’s just an Adonis,” he said. “Just a great physical specimen of a man. Our Creator created a beautiful man.”

The world No.5 discus thrower from last year surprised the athletics community a few weeks ago when he revealed that he intended to switch from the discus to American football. At that time Okoye said he had attracted interest from five teams, adding that he would like to return to athletics in his late-twenties.

Earlier this month AW published a statement from Okoye’s “very disappointed” coach, John Hillier, who said: “He was on the verge of breaking through, in my opinion, to being the best in the world. I would like what’s in his best interests and I honestly believe it would be in his best interests to stay in the sport.”

With only a couple of years in the sport behind him, Okoye, who reached the Olympic discus final last year, was picked out by the current world record-holder, Jurgen Schult, according to Hillier, as the one who would break his 27-year-old mark of 74.08m.

Following the London 2012 Olympics, Okoye announced that after careful consideration he had chosen athletics over possible careers in rugby and law and that he might aim for Rio 2016.

But he impressed at the Super Regional Combine, despite having never played American football, with a report for CBS Sports labelling the athlete’s stats in a series of tests “eye popping”.

He clocked 4.78 seconds in the 40 yards, 35 inches (88.9cm) in the vertical jump and 125 inches (3.18m) in the broad jump (standing long jump).

Reports claim that Okoye will sign a three-year contract with the 49ers and play in the defensive line.

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