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Peter King
December 11, 1989
Christian Okoye of the Chiefs may be the NFL's gentlest player. He is certainly its most dangerous runner
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December 11, 1989

Onward, Christian

Christian Okoye of the Chiefs may be the NFL's gentlest player. He is certainly its most dangerous runner

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Talent has sufficed so far. On Oct. 8 in Seattle, Okoye took a handoff from Jaworski at the Seahawk 13. He shrugged off an arm tackle from linebacker Tony Woods at the line and churned over linebacker David Wyman, who was flat on his back, at the 11. Safety Nesby Glasgow and end Jeff Bryant had shots and missed. Cornerback Patrick Hunter and safety Eugene Robinson dived at Okoye's legs at the five, and he pistoned through them. At the goal line, cornerback Melvin Jenkins made a fruitless grab for him. Seven Seahawks had tried to stop Okoye, and seven had failed. What's remarkable is that none of them even swayed the guy. Okoye hardly broke stride.

"You try to think of who he reminds you of," says Webster, who has been in the league for 16 years. " Earl Campbell is the only guy who comes to mind. But he was 35 pounds lighter than Christian, and Christian is probably faster. Look at how Christian is built. The guy ought to be blocking for me."

"To feel the force he runs with is amazing," says Eatman. "He has slammed into my back on running plays a few times, and the only way I can describe what it feels like is to imagine standing on the street and getting hit by a car going 50 miles an hour. And he's just getting a head of steam by the time he gets to me. Imagine what it's like to tackle him."

The 6-6-1 Chiefs are one of the league's more promising clubs, and Okoye's teammates are giddy about the guy's future. "He's a military weapon yet to be fully tested," says Eatman. They figure he hasn't taken the pounding that other backs in their late 20's, like Dickerson and Herschel Walker, have taken. They figure his combination of size and speed is so exceptional that teams will have to gang up on defense to stop him, leaving the rest of the Kansas City offense wide open. They figure that when the game becomes instinctive to him, he'll devise even more ways to shuck off the bodies trying to cling to him. "It's almost like every day you're opening a Christmas present, because you see something new and so exciting," says Peterson.

Okoye's teammates got one of those presents a few weeks ago in the game against Seattle. There was a TV timeout in the second half. Jaworski spread the word that the next play would be a 2 Flip Wide 36, a straight-ahead, man-on-man-blocking play in which Okoye would pick the best hole and try to blast through the line.

"Linemen! Linemen!" said a huffing and puffing Okoye from the back of the huddle. His teammates were stunned. He never talked in the huddle. When they all looked, Okoye said, "I'm going to cut this one back, linemen!"

Okoye's confidence is growing, but opponents still taunt him and try to break his concentration. "Sometimes the other players cuss me out and say bad words," he says. "Or they'll say things like, 'Not today! Not today!' Silly things. But it is nothing. After the game everyone shakes hands, and all is forgotten. I do not hate them. There is no one I do not like.

"But," he adds, "I do like to beat them."

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