He might not be a ‘household name’— yet, but Bobby Okereke is quickly becoming a star for the Colts’ defense.
The former third-round pick out of Stanford has been quite a find by GM Chris Ballard. Okereke has increasingly seen more playing time, staring a minimum of eight games in each of his first two seasons.
With the departure of former linebacker Anthony Walker (signed with the Cleveland Browns during the offseason), the expectation is for Okereke to slide in at the MIKE linebacker spot. Additionally, Okereke’s production began to rise as the he saw more playing time. The soon-to-be star had a combined 72 tackles, 15 assisted tackles and an interception in a limited role last season.
In 2019, Pro Football Focus named Okereke its ‘top rookie linebacker’ for that season. Okereke also spoke with local media members back in May and was confident in his ability to take on a larger role with the Colts this season.
“Towards the end of the season, I was playing —I wanna say — 60, 70, 80% of the snaps,” Okereke said. “For me, personal accountability, stepping up, making sure that I’m that consistent leader for everyone on that defense and really just keeping this thing rolling.”
Going into his third season, Okereke emphasized the importance of still being able to adapt to the changes and continue to grow as a player and leader for Indy’s defense.
“I mean, really staying true to that fast and physical mindset that we play with,” Okereke said. “And then, for me, in year three, obviously a lot of the mental hurdles are over with. I understand the defense pretty well, and now it’s letting my athleticism take over and really showcasing my playmaking ability.”
Okereke wants to be a game-changer for the defense. He’s ready to help create those altering plays this season and moving forward, too.
“More big plays,” Okereke said. “More interceptions, more forced fumbles, more fumble recoveries, really just getting my hand on the ball.”
As enthusiastic as Okereke was about creating more turnovers, he also talked about the steps which are necessary to help him achieve those goals.
“For me, just personally making sure I understand the defense 100% mentally, so I can really go key-to-key and play fast and play free,” Okereke said.
Their linebackers may be young, but if Okereke can take that next step as the starting middle linebacker this season, the Colts could have one of the best linebacking corps in 2021.