British discus star announces he will sign with 49ers

British discus star announces he will sign with 49ers
April 27, 2013, 5:00 pm
Share This Post

Lawrence Okoye, 21, is the British discus record-holder. He placed 12th in the London Olympics. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SANTA CLARA -- British Olympian Lawrence Okoye, who impressed NFL scouts with his rare physical ability, will sign with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent, he announced on his Twitter page.

Okoye will sign a three-year contract with the 49ers and attempt to make a transition to defensive line in the NFL.

Coach Jim Harbaugh, speaking Saturday evening after the draft, that he felt "inadequate" when he met the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Okoye on a recent visit to the 49ers' team offices.

"This is an Adonis, a great physical specimen of a man," Harbaugh said. "Our Creator created a beautiful man."

Okoye, 21, was an accomplished rugby player who decided to begin throwing the discus. Two years later, he became the British discus record-holder and placed 12th in the London Olympics.

He has never played football, but Harbaugh said giving him a chance to learn from defensive line coach Jim Tomsula may enable him to become a top-level football player, too.

"You start to put the pieces together and say, 'Taking on football at this time in his life, I can see this guy doing it,'" Harbaugh said. "I'm excited."

Okoye attended two regional combines and attracted the attention of NFL scouts with his size and athleticism. 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 recently at a combine at Cowboys Stadium.

The 49ers had success with two track weight men in the 1980s. 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.

Also, Bill Walsh signed former world-record hurdler Renaldo Nehemiah in 1982. Nehemiah played 40 games in three seasons at wide receiver. He caught a total of 43 passes for 754 yards and four touchdowns.

 

More Team Talk