The 49ers had success in the 1980s converting accomplished track-and-field throwers into defensive linemen. And the organization is investigating that possibility once again.
British discus record-holder Lawrence Okoye, who finished a disappointing 12th at the London Olympics, visited with the 49ers on Wednesday, he told the Detroit Free Press.
Okoye, who is an accomplished rugby player but has never played football, attended two regional combines and attracted the attention of NFL scouts with his size and athleticism. Okoye is 6-foot-6, 305 pounds. He reportedly ran the 40-yard dash in 4.88 and 4.78 seconds while posting a 10-foot-5 broad jump and a 35-inch vertical jump this week at a combine at Cowboys Stadium.
"I came over to the States for warm-weather training for my discus," Okoye told the London Daily Mail last month. "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."
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Okoye, 21, said he has followed the NFL and many people have told him he should give it a try.
"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," he said. "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."
The 49ers have experience with Olympians. Michael Carter, who attended Southern Methodist on a football scholarship, won the silver medal in the 1984 Olympics. The following season, Carter played nose tackle on the 49ers' Super Bowl-winning team. Carter, a fifth-round draft pick in 1984, played for the 49ers through 1992.
Defensive end Jeff Stover was also a member of that 49ers championship team. Stover, who grew up in the small Northern California town of Corning, did not play football at Oregon. He was one of the best shot-putters in the country, but did not get a chance to participate in the 1980 Olympics because of the United States' boycott. Stover impressed the 49ers in a tryout and ended up playing for the club from 1982 to '88.