British Olympic discus finalist Lawrence Okoye has admitted he's delighted to get the opportunity to fulfil a childhood dream of competing in the NFL after Superbowl runners-up San Francisco 49ers signed him to a contract.
The 21-year-old Croydon-born Olympian impressed NFL scouts at a regional trial earlier this year, and although he went undrafted during the recent NFL draft, the 49ers saw enough to offer him a place on their roster.
And Okoye has revealed his joy at being handed the chance to go from Olympic discus finalist to NFL starter in less than 12 months.
Speaking to his official Facebook page, Okoye said: " I'm absolutely thrilled and honoured to be joining the San Francisco 49ers and I must thank the franchise for the wonderful trust and support they've already placed in me. It's truly humbling."
The Briton is expected to play as a pass rusher on the defensive side of the ball. His main job as defensive end will be to get to the quarterback, but he's aware of the size of the challenge that awaits him just to make the team.
A typical NFL franchise takes on as many as 90 players over the summer as they prepare for the new season, which starts in September.
But the squad must be trimmed to just 53 by the time the regular season kicks off, with another eight players eligible for the practice squad - that allows them to train alongside the first-team but not to suit up for games.
Okoye said: "It really is a dream come true to have even got this far, but I'm under no illusions, this is where the hard work really starts.
"Like I did with my rugby, and then most recently in my discus career, I intend to immerse myself in American football and work around the clock to pay back the support of the franchise and over time realise my potential in the sport."
The 49ers were one of several teams to show an interest in Okoye, who had stunned scouts with a 4.78sec 40-yard dash at his workout.
His athleticism - at 6ft 5in and 304lbs there's few quicker defensive lineman in the league - attracted the interest, but none of the 32 teams were willing to risk a draft pick on a player yet to play a down of football.
Still, Okoye was snapped up as an undrafted free agent based mainly on his work ethic, NFL-ready physique and incredible potential. And he has the chance to learn from one of the best lineman coaches in the league, 49ers defensive line chief Jim Tomsula.
Find out more at Okoye's Facebook page here.
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