This week the Chiefs announced they’ll be signing free agent running back Carlos Hyde and I couldn’t be more excited. He put up big numbers last year in his six games with the Browns before being traded to the Jaguars who for some unknown reason decided they couldn’t use him. So I thought we’d take a look back at another power back that ran like he was angry at the grass. Christian “The Nigerian Nightmare” Okoye.Embed from Getty Images
Born in Enugu, Nigeria, Okoye immigrated to the United States when he was 21 years old. He was a star athlete in several track and field events including shot put, discus, and the hammer throw. –I looked it up. Sounds way cooler than it actually is.– His plan was to compete in the Olympics for the Nigerian team but was passed over by the Nigerian government. Discouraged by the let down Okoye turned to football.
He didn’t attend his first American football game until he was 23 and actually thought the game was boring. Easy people, nobody is perfect. That year he began playing at Azusa Pacific University and almost quit the game completely because he didn’t like how rough the game was.
Luckily for the Chiefs his friends convinced him he had a special combination of size and speed so he continued to play and would go on to be drafted in the second round in 1987.
“We thought he was almost too good to be true,” said Jim Schaaf, the Chiefs’ general manager at the time. “Our personnel people said this kid’s got everything. He’s got the size, he’s got the speed, he’s got the intelligence, he’s got the character.”
In his first two seasons, Okoye was limited by injuries but was still able to tally over 1,000 yards. He had his break out season the next year when he rushed for 1,480 yards and 12 touchdowns earning him his first trip to the Pro-Bowl as well as AFC offensive player of the year honors.
After playing just 6 seasons with the Chiefs, Okoye decided it was time to hang up his cleats because he was tired of practice and said football had become more of a job than something he loved to do anymore. His final rushing attempt was an 8 yard touchdown run.
The Nigerian Nightmare finished his career with 4,897 rush yards and 40 rushing touchdowns. At the time both were Chiefs franchise records and he left a very unhealthy fear of shoulder pad neck rolls in the league.
Okoye would go on to invest in the Golden Baseball League and he also owns Okoye Health and Fitness, a company that sells nutritional supplements. He also co-founded the California Sports Hall of Fame of which he is the president.Embed from Getty Images
What are your fondest memories of Christian Okoye? Were there any plays you saw that made him stand out to you?