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For Okoronkwo, Playing for the Rams is an Edge Rusher's Dream

Posted May 16, 2018

After just three three days at the Rams facility, Okoronkwo is already eager to begin carving out his role.

As the 160th overall pick in this year’s draft, outside linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo had to wait more than 48 hours to hear his name called by the Rams. And because L.A. chose to forgo a traditional rookie minicamp, the Oklahoma product had to wait another two weeks before officially becoming an NFL athlete.

With all of that time, Okoronkwo was understandably anxious to get started when the rookie class first took the field this week.

“A bunch of my buddies and friends from school [had] already started and I’m at home with my parents,” he said recently. “I wanted to get into practice, and I’m just sitting at home waiting. But it feels a lot different actually being a part of the team now... It’s amazing.”

Though Tuesday represented his first time on the field in Los Angeles, Okoronkwo has been looking forward to carving out a role on the team’s roster. And with a glance over his college stat sheet, you can understand why.

From his freshman to his senior campaign, the outside linebacker consistently made an impact to become one of the most dominant forces on the Sooners’ defense. In 2017 alone, he amassed 76 tackles, 17.5 for loss and 8.0 sacks. Plus, as a self-proclaimed “effort guy,” he is ready to translate that same level of play to the league.

“I definitely see an opportunity to play if I do everything in my power,” Okoronkwo said. “So, I’m going to go in with a workers mentality. Come like a blue collar worker, just trying to earn a job.”

Fortunately for Okoronkwo, he is coming into an organization with plenty of experience on defense — stacked with one of the best coordinators in the league and several strong veteran players on the unit.

“Out of all 32 teams in the NFL, this is the perfect fit for me — playing here with Wade Phillips, just this 3-4 [scheme] and how aggressive it is,” he said. “I’m going to be playing with some of the most dominant pass rushers in the game. It’s an edge rushers dream playing here.”

Plus, one of the players Okoronkwo has studied the most is a player who used to star for the Rams. When asked who the edge rusher likes to model his game after, Okoronkwo mentioned several of the league’s top players, including former outside linebacker Robert Quinn.

“I’ve modeled my game after him,” he said. “[And also] Von Miller, Justin Houston — all people with just similar body types. It’s his dip and lean. He could really just run and bend around that corner, I feel like I can do that really well too. I watch his film so I know the method behind the madness.”

And as the Rams head into the 2018 season, Okoronkwo has the opportunity to fill Quinn’s spot on the outside, something he says is beyond his wildest dreams.

“It’s really crazy because when I first started playing that was one of the guys that my coaches in high school [would say], like eventually this is what you can do,” he said. “I started playing nose guard and three-technique originally, but he told me ‘when you finally get it, when the light comes on this is the type of player you’re going to be.’ That’s what he showed me and so I never forgot who Robert Quinn was.”

Okoronkwo admittedly has a long way to go before he reaches the caliber of Quinn as a pass rusher. So how does he see himself fitting into Los Angeles’ roster to begin his career?

“Special teams and pass rush,” he said. “I didn’t get a lot of that at Oklahoma [because] we didn’t put starters on special teams as much. “But I’m a high motor guy, so special teams is perfect for me and so is the pass rush — it’s something I could naturally from the first day playing football.”

“I just want all the veterans to know that I’m a dog and I’m a guy who’s ready to play right now,” Okoronkwo concluded.