Lawrence Okoye is an English track and field athlete, and an American football player for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). The 6 foot 6 inch, 21-stone Olympic discus thrower holds the British record in the event, and his best throw of 67.63 metres ranks him fifth in the world.
Lawrence Okoye was born on October 6, 1991 to Nigerian parents in Croydon in South London. His father, who was born in Nigeria, once played American football as defensive end for the University of Nebraska. He lives with his mother and his three sisters. Okoye attended St Mary's Roman Catholic Junior School, a state primary school, as well as the Whitgift School, an independent school for boys (both in Croydon).
While still a student, he scored a try at the famous Twickenham Stadium as he helped guide Whitgift School to victory during the 2009 Daily Mail Under-18 Rugby Cup. While at school, he had also shown an interest in athletics. By the time he was 18, Okoye was playing as winger for the London Irish Academy rugby team and was set to play for Championship side Esher before choosing to focus on athletics.
After deferring an offer from the University of Oxford to study Law, he began to train seriously for the discus less than two years before the 2012 London Olympics. His first international outing was at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Athletics at which he placed sixth. He won a gold medal at the European Athletics U23 Championships held in Ostrava, the Czech Republic, in July 2011 at the age of 19. Within twenty months of starting the new sport, Okoye was ranked the world's fourth-best discus thrower. He finished in that same position during qualification rounds for the Olympic final with a throw of 65.28 metres.
In 2011, Okoye threw a new British record of 67.63 metres at the McCain Jumps and Throws Fest. He bettered that achievement with another British record of 68.24 metres at the Hallesche Werfertage meeting in Germany in May 2012. Other records to his name include the British senior record and the furthest ever recorded discus throw by a teenager.
At the 2012 London Summer Olympics, Okoye competed in the discus throw, reaching the final with a throw of 65.28 metres. In the final he finished in twelfth place with a throw of 61.03 metres.
In March 2013, Okoye announced his intentions to play in the NFL, despite having never played American football in either high school or college; he stated that five NFL teams expressed interest in him, and planned to sign with one after the 2013 NFL Draft. At the NFL Super Regional Combine, Okoye ran the 40-yard dash in 4.78 seconds, while achieving 35 inches on the vertical jump and 10 feet 5 inches on the broad jumps. After failing to be selected in the 2013 NFL Draft, he was signed on April 27, 2013 by the San Francisco 49ers as a free agent.
Okoye is not only an embodiment of physical talent but also of intelligence: he gained four A-levels, with A stars in History and English and As in Maths and Economics. He plans to pursue his place at the University of Oxford in 2017.
Watch Okoye discuss his career and plans in an interview: