Okoye stood in water up to his waist, lining up as a defensive tackle. Chidume was across from him, pretending to be a guard. Behind Chidume was the Jacuzzi, playing the part of immobile quarterback. Chidume gave Okoye five seconds to reach the Jacuzzi. One Mississippi ... two Mississippi ... three Mississippi....
"It was good practice," says Chidume. "I even blocked him sometimes." That is hard to believe, considering Chidume weighs 210 pounds. But as Okoye splashed around his new pool, abusing blockers, he regained some of the enthusiasm that training camp had sapped from him.
AFTER THE season opener against the Chiefs, Kubiak said Okoye played like a "young kid." In the second game, at Carolina, Okoye missed a key assignment. Enraged, he told his teammates, "I'm going to make up for it." On the next play he got his first career sack. A series later he got another. When Okoye arrived home, Arinze and Chidume presented him with a cake, the time of each sack scrawled in frosting. That cake sits three-quarters eaten in the refrigerator, along with another congratulating Okoye for being named defensive rookie of the month for September.
He is starting to put his quick mind to work and build on his experience. Last week Kalu jotted down a few basic offensive formations and presented them to Okoye. Kalu, now in his 11th season, explained that over the next couple of years Okoye needs to start studying various offensive formations so he can recognize if a pass play or run play is coming. Okoye took one look at the formations, drawn carefully on a piece of paper. "Thanks a lot," he said, "but I already know these." Kalu, a fellow member of the Igbo tribe, did not take offense. "That's why the guy graduated at 19," he said.
College graduate at 19, Pro Bowl player at 20? Okoye is too smart to make any wild predictions. But if his NFL learning curve continues its steep ascent, he can start dreaming about a week in Hawaii, afternoons at the beach and all the virgin Mai Tais he can drink.