British discus thrower Okoye targeting NFL dream
British athlete Lawrence Okoye is aiming to become one of the first sportsmen from the United Kingdom to play in America's National Football League (NFL).
Okoye, 21, is over in the United States for warm-weather discus training, but has gained a second football trial in Dallas next weekend after catching the eye of several NFL teams in the original combine in Atlanta.
The British discus record holder finished 12th in the final of the London Olympics last summer and, as well as being a former London Irish academy winger, believes he has what it takes to compete in the NFL.
"I came over to the States for warm-weather training for my discus," Okoye told the Daily Mail. "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.
"I've had some meetings since, and done some private workouts with some clubs, too, and already they are talking to me about contracts even before the Super Combine in Dallas next weekend. I'm talking about some of the best known and biggest teams."
Okoye admitted that, while he has always possessed a love for American football, if he earns a contract it would simply be a short-term switch and he would eventually return to the throwing circle.
"From my mid-teenage years everyone kept telling me to give American football a go, and I thought about applying for an American college scholarship when I was 16.
"I've always been a huge NFL fan for as long as I can remember and whenever I've arrived in the States the customs officers always ask me who I play for. I want to give this my best shot. It's a rare life opportunity.
"But I do not intend to quit athletics completely. The best age to be a discus thrower is your late 20s to around the 30-mark. In the Olympic final that was the average age, even though I was 20. I fully intend to return to throwing the discus when my hopeful football career ends, which could well be around the same time.
"I accept that some may question whether I can ever stick at one thing. I was good enough to be a rugby player, and I am good enough to be an international athlete, but American football has always been a dream for me… and I'm almost there."