“CHRISTIAN OKOYE: A FOOTBALL LIFE”
PREMIERES FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 18TH, 8PM/ET ON NFL NETWORK
by Matt Malabonga
Nightmares scare people of all ages, frightening us in our most vulnerable position. It’s not like we don’t know they exist or that they dig into our deepest fears, but there’s still something terrifying about not being able to do anything to avoid them.
It was that same, sinking feeling of vulnerability that tacklers had about Christian Okoye that led the running back to be nicknamed “The Nigerian Nightmare.” Friday night, on the season premiere of “A Football Life,” hear the origins of Okoye’s iconic nickname, but also, how his path towards football was anything but a straight line. At 6’1 and 260lbs of pure power and speed, all defenders could do when they saw him line up behind the quarterback was hope he didn’t come rumbling their way.
Okoye’s beginnings were much different than traditional football stories, taking place in a country where they didn’t even have American football. Born in Nigeria, Okoye grew up dreaming of being an Olympic track athlete for his home country. But along the way, unforeseen obstacles turned his dreams towards a new sport: football. For Okoye, when one door closed, another linemen-sized door opened.
Rob Gehring, co-producer of this film, was fascinated by the raw nature of Okoye’s story. “He didn’t play football until he was 23 years old. He was this amazing talent that ran over people, a ridiculous specimen, just bigger and faster than just about any running backs at the time,” Gehring said. “Plus, he was so good at another sport, he could’ve been an Olympian.”
After playing 3 years of college football and getting drafted by the Chiefs in the second round in 1987, Okoye soon became a sensation. Along with his bruising strength, he ran with a grace fit for the track. For 5 years, teams lived in fear of the day they played the Nigerian Nightmare.
Despite his physical dominance, a big part of Okoye’s history was when he was a victim of a brutal hit by Steve Atwater on Monday Night Football, still one of the most talked about tackles in the history of the NFL. “It irks him,” said Gehring. “But he’s such a good guy with a good sense of humor about everything, he has a good time with it.”
This Friday, September 18th at 8PM, catch the season premiere of “A Football Life” on NFL Network and hear Christian Okoye reflect on how a sport he stumbled upon became an integral part of his life. In the end, this Nightmare’s dreams came true.
“CHRISTIAN OKOYE: A FOOTBALL LIFE” IS PRODUCED BY
ROB GEHRING AND JAMES WEINER.