Former Notre Dame defensive end Romeo Okwara announced after the conclusion of the NFL Draft that he has signed with the New York Giants.
Okwara’s #NDFB career could be chronicled “The Curious Case of Romeo Okwara,” due to his unusual youth.
Okwara, born in Nigeria, began school at the early age of 3, and he and his family moved to the United States years later. Once residing in North Carolina, Romeo had finished the 6th grade at age 10. He was a 3 star recruit (247sports composite ranking) coming out of Charlotte, North Carolina and turned 17 years old just prior to his freshman year at Notre Dame.
Despite his age, he was pushed into playing time and played in all 13 games in the 2012 season, where he served predominantly as a special team player contributing 7 tackles (4 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, and forced a fumble. He played in all 13 games in his sophomore season as well, recording 19 tackles (10 solo), 1.5 tackles for loss, and a half sack. During his junior season, Okwara worked his way into a starting role – starting 12 of the 13 games. He made 39 tackles (15 solo), 4 tackles for loss, 4 sacks (team leader), and forced 2 fumbles. Moving into his senior year, Okwara was 19 and just turned 20 before the start of the season. To put that into perspective, it is common for high school seniors to turn 19 going into their freshman year of college.
Again, despite his youth, his senior year proved to be his most productive, where he (once again) lead the team in sacks with 9, registered 49 tackles (32 solo), 13.5 tackles for loss, and recovered and forced a fumble (all stats credit to und.com and sports-refernce.com). It appeared that a switch was flipped during his senior year, and he provided a much needed rush end dynamic to a defensive that admittedly has struggled getting to the quarterback. Okwara’s most memorable moment came in a November game against Wake Forest, where he leaped a potential cut block and recorded one of his three sacks in the game. He then proceeded to celebrate by showing some love to the nationally acclaimed Notre Dame fencing program, who will be highly represented at this year’s summer Olympics with 5 members joining Team USA. Moving on, let’s jump into Okwara’s NFL combine.
Okwara recorded the following measurables at the 2016 NFL combine:
• 6’5” – 265 lbs. – 34 1/8” arm length – 10 1/8” hand size
• 4.90 seconds 40 yard dash
• 23 reps on bench press
• 33.0 inch vertical jump
• 120.0 inch broad jump
• 7.38 seconds 3 cone drill
• 4.53 seconds 20 yard shuttle
I, sadly, am no NFL scout nor am I a self-proclaimed “draft expert” (if such creatures exist), thus my opinions on these numbers are about as irrelevant as Jim Harbaugh’s opinions on…anything. Instead of my commentary I’ll paraphrase Lance Zierlein of NFL.com and thesidelineview.com. Strengths include above average arm length and hand size coupled with natural upper body strength. Zierlein doesn’t sugarcoat his hesitations of Okwara explaining, “Extremely raw. Slow reaction time off the snap and doesn’t have the twitch to burst upfield and threaten an edge as a rusher.” In summary, Zierlein believes Okwara will need to break out of his normal stiff and mechanical movements, and translate his raw and natural power into on-field production if he hopes to make a roster. You can find Zierlein’s entire profile on Okwara at NFL.com.
In my totally meaningless and unsolicited opinion, I thought that a team would take a late round chance on Okwara, purely because of his intriguing youth. Even though he signed with the Giants, he won’t be legally allowed to celebrate with a cold one because he is only 20 years old (but I’ll fall on the sword and drink his share).
In any event, the Giants are getting an uncharacteristically young, bright, physically and mentally strong defensive lineman that will hopefully be given time to develop into a serviceable contributor.
— Romeo Okwara (@RomeoND45) April 30, 2016