Stop me if you’ve heard this before: one of Chris Ballard’s 2019 NFL Draft picks has a sparkling background and character.
On the field, Stanford linebacker Bobby Okereke has earned a reputation for his rare speed at the position. That speed played an important role in allowing him to lead the Cardinals in tackles in his senior season. It also helped him excel in short-zone coverage, an area the Colts are looking to improve.
One of the things that separates him from other players at his position is his intelligence and football IQ. He does an excellent job of getting a read on plays early and getting himself into position to disrupt backs, receivers, and quarterbacks.
If a rangy, speedy, linebacker with the ability to make plays sounds familiar, it should come as little surprise that one of the primary player comparisons for Okereke is Colts All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard. Imagine if Okereke can develop into a player who can be anywhere close to Leonard in terms of on-field production. It would put the Colts linebacker position at or near the top of the league.
While the ability to excel on the field must take precedent for NFL front offices and scouting departments, Chris Ballard has been placing a premium on the mental and character aspects of future Colts players. Okereke’s parents immigrated from Nigeria, hoping to give their family a chance to receive a world class education and an opportunity to live the American Dream. Their son just graduated with a degree from Stanford University, one of the most well-respected educational institutions in the world.
Okereke started playing football his freshman year in high school and did so well that he was recruited to play for a major program at Stanford. He used each season, including a redshirt year, to improve his game. He grew quickly from special teams contributor to defensive role-player to the team’s leading tackler.
One can’t help but come away impressed with Okereke after listening to him tell his story and respond to interview questions. He is well-spoken, clearly intelligent, and it’s one writer’s opinion that he will quickly become good buddies with fellow Stanford graduate Andrew Luck. Quenton Nelson is also likely to call him a nerd.
Take a look at Okereke’s Stanford Story and an interview with him after his final regular season game against Cal. He is a tremendous ambassador for himself, his family, and his team. It’s exciting to think about what Chris Ballard is building in the Colts locker room.