Harbaugh talks backup QB competition, Okoye's progress
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SANTA CLARA -- It was not long ago that Lawrence Okoye did not even rate as a football player because, well, he was not a football player.
That changes Thursday night when he is slated to make his American football debut when the 49ers open the exhibition season against the Denver Broncos.
Coach Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers must evaluate Okoye, a defensive lineman, while maintaining perspective. After all, the British Olympian in the discus has taken part in just eight padded practices before lining up to face NFL hopefuls -- all of whom earned a spot on the Broncos' camp roster after successful college careers.
Okoye (6 foot 6, 304 pounds) is the most intriguing athlete on the team. He has incredible raw ability, but he has very little understanding of the sport.
However, Harbaugh wants to manage the expectations for Okoye.
"He's not a good football player," Harbaugh said. "His next goal is to be 'not a bad player.' But he's made growth from never having played the game of football. So you talk about process, and expectations need to be realistic.
"I want him to be a bad football player because that's really the next jump up for Lawrence Okoye. He's making significant strides each and every day."