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A Bruiser from Azusa
Jill Lieber
April 27, 1987
Christian Okoye, a 25-year-old sleeper out of Nigeria and Azusa Pacific, has NFL scouts agog
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April 27, 1987

A Bruiser From Azusa

Christian Okoye, a 25-year-old sleeper out of Nigeria and Azusa Pacific, has NFL scouts agog

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A hurt look came over Okoye's face. "I was told you were my man," he said sheepishly.

And did anybody think to instruct Okoye in touchdown protocol? "On his first touchdown, Christian stood in the end zone, embarrassed," Milhon says. "He didn't know what to do with the ball." Finally, and correctly, he simply handed it to the official.

Okoye often thought about quitting, but Franson talked him out of it. "He made me believe that I looked good out there," Okoye says. "I liked playing running back. It's so basic: You run with the ball, and people chase you.

"The spirit is great. You know that each time a guy comes at you on the field, he'll give you all he's got. That psychs you to protect yourself. Guys will cheap-shot you at the bottom of the pile, cuss at you. But if you ignore them, pat them on the back, soon they'll be nice to you, and they'll help you up."

As Draft Day nears, Okoye has been wondering about life in the NFL, and he is questioning whether he can manage without the security of Azusa Pacific, his coaches and his friend Egbunike. The Fransons had him to dinner a while back to point out the hazards of fame and fortune. "I have thought about it all," Okoye says, "and I have reaffirmed my values. I will not let the world gobble me up."

Benedict Ike wants to come to America to see his son play football. Emmanuel Okoye, 27, wants to study in the U.S. like his brother and has applied to Purdue. And 19-year-old Gertrude, the youngest Okoye, has her heart set on the Azusa Pacific School of Nursing. Their dreams can come true only if Cho-Cho makes it in the NFL.

"I'm surprised I've done all this," he says. "This has all been possible through hard work. I wanted it, and then I went out and got it.

"Sometimes, when I sit by myself in my apartment, I think about how lucky I am. I think about playing football, what I should do in certain situations. You know, I'm ready right now."

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