Option No. 1 was to accept his invitation to study at the prestigious Oxford Law School in his native England. Option No. 2 was to continue pursuing his NFL dream with the Miami Dolphins.
Okoye chose the latter, and hopes to make Miami’s roster after bouncing around over the past four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets, Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. He is far from a lock with the Dolphins, who are stocked at defensive tackle with Ndamukong Suh, Jordan Phillips and 2017 draft picks Vincent Jackson and Davon Godchaux.
Those four are expected to make the team, which leaves little margin for error for Okoye this summer in minicamps and training camp. However, Okoye is confident he will show the Dolphins he made enough improvements to earn a spot.
“My first time ever playing was against Joe Staley in practice. That wasn’t easy,” Okoye said. “Now I’m very comfortable. I’m not saying I’m Bruce Smith, but I’m very happy with my skill set, and I’m improving every day. I feel very happy in my ability of going out there and dominating guys on the field.”
Okoye was able to defer his acceptance into Oxford to the summer of 2017. He said he’s going to let the deadline pass and join the Dolphins for training camp at the end of July.
Okoye already experienced major success in his athletic career. He represented the UK in the 2012 Olympics as a discus thrower. Okoye finished 12th in the world and could have easily called it a career.
But the 6-foot-6, 280-pounder fell in love with American football after watching it in England and also participating in rugby. Okoye went from being an elite athlete in one sport to virtually a no-name in the NFL trying to make a team.
“I think it’s a process of humbling yourself and starting from the bottom,” Okoye said. “Starting from scratch and having no name recognition, no clout and just building yourself up from the bottom.”
Dolphins head coach Adam Gase likes what he’s seen from Okoye thus far.
“You got a big, athletic guy that has been in high-performance sports,” Gase said. “Even though it’s not this, it’s still an elite level. I think any time you get a chance to bring a guy in your program that works hard and tries to do everything you ask him to do, give him a chance to compete, and I think he’s trying to make the most of it.”
Some would question passing up a chance to attend Oxford Law School with no guarantees from the Dolphins, but Okoye has no regrets. Okoye added that a chance to play professional sports also is a dream that many have and he is living it.
“At this point in my life, you kind of discover yourself -- kind of discover who you are as a person -- in your 20s,” Okoye said. “I’m still in that discovery process, still learning what I’m about as a person. I can’t give a definitive answer (about) what I’d like to do at some point in the future, because it’s so day-to-day right now.”