"Why do you want to play, then?" Franson asked.
"Because I think I could be a professional player," Okoye said.
"All right, you have my good graces," Franson said. "But if you only want to try it, to try it, the answer is no."
Milhon had a long list of football basics to teach Okoye. It didn't include how to put on the uniform. "I found out by watching guys around me," Okoye says.
In the beginning, Okoye ran too upright, didn't shorten his stride to make cuts and failed to use his legs to power through tacklers. He couldn't get a grip on which hand should carry the ball, and when he finally got that straight, he had an even tougher time holding on to the darned thing.
"Catching is still the hardest for me," Okoye says. "The ball is abnormal. It is not round."
Says Milhon, "The first time I handed Christian the ball, he looked at it curiously and said, 'Very interesting...but very impractical.' "
The idea of specific plays and designated blockers made sense to Okoye; it's just that he wasn't sure when to block and when to let others block for him. One day teammate Joe Schulter placed a large black arrow on the field to show Okoye where to run.
Then there was that pass play at practice. Milhon pointed to a linebacker and told his neophyte running back to block him only if he blitzed. When the linebacker dropped back to help cover the receiver, Okoye took off downfield and leveled the linebacker—flattened his own teammate.
"Are you crazy?" the startled Cougar screamed.