‘Nigerian Nightmare’ Okoye realizes dream with NFL Africa initiative

Christian Okoye became an NFL star as the first Nigerian-born player to reach that level. Now, he hopes an NFL initiative to introduce the sport to Africa produces other such athletes.

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Sports

July 21, 2022 - 1:48 PM

Christian Okoye Photo by Courtesy of Christian Okoye via Twitter

Forty years ago this summer, Christian Okoye left Nigeria to attend Azusa Pacific on a track and field scholarship.

Upon his arrival, Okoye had never so much as seen an American football, having known back home only the version of the game we call soccer. And had the Nigerian Olympic Committee in 1984 not inexplicably snubbed an amazing athlete who established NAIA records in four events (including the 100- and 200-meter dashes) and was then the Nigerian record-holder in the hammer throw and discus, he may never have even touched what he told Sports Illustrated in 1987 was the “abnormal” and “impractical” football. 

“I wasn’t interested at all,” he recently said in a telephone interview with The Star. “My friend talked me into it; I’m glad I listened.”

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