Youth is essential for success in professional sports. Rarely do we see athletes over the age of 35 competing at the highest level and excelling. But do you know who is the youngest NCAA and NFL player in history?
Amobi Okoye moved to the United States at 12 with no knowledge of American football and graduated with All-State honors at the age of 16. He turned down Harvard to play for Louisville and went on to become the NCAA’s youngest player and, later, the NFL’s youngest player in history.
Amobi Okoye Starting His Career Young
Amobi Okoye, born in Anambra State, Nigeria, moved to Alabama when he was 12. Okoye performed well enough on his tests that he was promoted to the ninth grade a few weeks later.
Okoye, who knew nothing about the NFL or American football, was able to begin playing at a younger age as a result. After learning from Madden games and signing out of high school with Louisville, he became a first-team All-State two-way lineman. Okoye had two sacks in his first two seasons as a defensive end.
As a junior in 2005, Okoye had four tackles for loss but only half a sack in 11 games. Then came Okoye’s breakout season in 2006, when he had eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss on a 12-1 Louisville team. (Source: Sports Casting)
Amobi Okoye Realizing NFL Dreams
Even though Amobi Okoye only had one outstanding college season, the Houston Texans saw his potential and age.
The Texans selected Okoye with the 10th overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft, which began on April 28. Okoye’s 20th birthday was still 43 days away. As a 20-year-old rookie, Okoye started 14 games and made an immediate impact. Okoye, who started at defensive tackle, had 5.5 sacks and forced a fumble.
Unfortunately, that was not a sign of things for Okoye and the Texans. Despite starting 28 of a possible 32 games over the next two years, he only had 2.5 sacks.
He recorded three sacks in 2010, but that was insufficient to keep him in Houston. With a young defense led by Brian Cushing and rookie J.J. Houston viewed Okoye as expendable, as did Watt and Mario Williams. Okoye, who was only 24 then, signed with the Chicago Bears and had four sacks off the bench in 2011. In 2012, he had 12 tackles and a sack. (Source: Sports Casting)
At the End Zone
Amobi Okoye signed with the Dallas Cowboys a year after nearly dying. He worked out with the team during the 2014 season but did not play.
Dallas let him go in April 2015. Okoye briefly played for the Canadian Football League’s Saskatchewan Roughriders in 2016. Okoye has not played professionally since. He now devotes his time to the Amobi Okoye Foundation, a charity based in Texas that he founded when he joined the NFL.
According to Charity Navigator, the charity’s mission is to fight hunger and provide scholarships to inner-city youths. (Source: Sports Casting)
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