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Ogbonnia Okoronkwo happy to finally make NFL debut


HONOLULU, Hawaii – After a foot injury cost him his rookie season in 2018 and a hamstring injury held him out of the Rams' 2019 preseason opener, linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo finally got to don L.A.'s royal blue and yellow in a live game this weekend.

The Oklahoma product made his NFL debut in Saturday night's 14-10 preseason loss to the Dallas Cowboys, having an active presence within Los Angeles' defense.

"All of my teammates, they were so happy for me," Okoronkwo said. "They really kept my spirits up, really encouraged me. The coaches encouraged me. Today was great."

The appearance was long overdue for him – 593 days to be exact.

Okoronkwo last played in a live football game on January 1, 2018, when his Sooners took on Georgia the Rose Bowl. Less than a month after the Rams chose him with the 160th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft in late April, he sustained a broken foot during their organized team activities which required surgery.

He was placed on the physically unable to perform list prior to the start of L.A.'s 2018 training camp and not taken off until Nov. 5. Then came the hamstring injury.

Okoronkwo didn't dwell on it, though, and made his presence felt right away. Entering Saturday's contest early in the second quarter, he finished with one tackle, one pass breakup and one quarterback hit. He also drew a pair of holding penalties.

"Getting Obo out there, it's been great to see him," Rams head Sean McVay said. "You some of the flashes of why we liked him so much, why he was a productive player at Oklahoma."

Surprisingly, as active as Okoronkwo was on Saturday, he didn't view his performance through the same lens as his head coach. However, he was quick to credit the Rams' training staff for their work in helping getting him get back on the field.

"I didn't feel like I did too well," Okoronkwo said. "I'm going to go back to practice and keep working, but honestly, I'm just happy I got to play. I'm grateful that we have the great training staff that we do."

Besides the training staff, Okoronkwo also showed his appreciation toward his teammates for helping him keep a positive mindset throughout the adversity he faced.

"I mean, if you are around this team, these coaches, the training staff, everybody's just very uplifting, very positive," Okoronkwo said. "It's really easy to stay (upbeat) and keep your head above water when they hear you're going through something like that, because everybody's going to give you some uplifting words."

Now several months removed from the injury, Okoronkwo is glad to be back.

"It feels good to play football again," he said.

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