Lawrence Okoye makes 49ers debut

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The San Francisco 49ers' British defensive end Lawrence Okoye insists he is enjoying his NFL adventure after making his American football debut in Thursday's 10-6 preseason defeat against the Denver Broncos.

21-year-old Croydon native Okoye, who also played rugby for the academy teams of both London Irish and London Wasps as a teenager, is embarking upon a daunting career change after a three-year spell in the discus event that saw him represent Great Britain at the 2012 Olympic Games.

Okoye was not selected during the 2013 NFL draft, but later signed for the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh in April. 

His progress in the sport since moving to the United States has been tough but relatively steady, and despite only featuring briefly for the franchise at their Candlestick Park home on Thursday, Okoye is clearly still relishing the considerable challenge.

""Yeah, it was nice to get out there for a few snaps," he said. "My coach is obviously playing it slow. I think it was appropriate the way he handled the selections regards going out. 

"So I was.... you know I enjoyed the time I spent on the field and I've just got to keep building from here. Small steps every week. I'm enjoying the process.

"It's a huge moment in my life. It's a huge step, it's also a small step because we've got a lot more to do and a lot more progress to make. And I'm really enjoying the guys I'm working with. 

"I have true confidence and faith in what's going on, and what we're doing. So I believe we're going to..... this is going to go well. But, small steps and coach Tomsula (Defensive Line Coach Jim Tomsula) is very aware of that, and I'm going to keep doing that, and hopefully, by this time next year I'll be in a good spot."

Thursday's encounter was a clash between the two teams widely expected to be contesting Super Bowl XLVIII in February, and despite the disappointing nature of the defeat for his side, Okoye was just happy to be given the opportunity to adjust to the pace of the game.

"It's just good to know I went out there and I did my assignments and I didn't look out of place," he said.

"That's all I can take away from it. Next week I'll get some more snaps and hopefully I'll get some chances to rush a pass and I can show everyone what I can do.

"But these small steps are appropriate for where I'm at and I'm just enjoying the whole process."

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