The Detroit Lions have a player who loves the game of football on their roster perhaps more than anyone else in cornerback Jeff Okudah.
While some might say they love the game, Okudah proves it daily to the Lions coaches already by going non-stop about football, and he’s only been on the job for a couple of months with the team officially. Speaking this past week with the media, Lions new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin admitted Okudah is not like other rookies he has seen, and as a result, he expects him to not hit the traditional rookie wall this coming season.
Perhaps that seems like a strange comment given Undlin hasn’t gotten a chance to work with the youngster in person on the field. Perhaps not so. Undlin knows Okudah’s passionate love of the game might be a reason he isn’t worried about him going through the typical ups and downs that other rookies may have on the field.
“I think the people in Detroit and Lions fans are really really going to like him not only as a player but as a person. Jeff is driven like few men I’ve been around in this profession,” Undlin said. “I know that and I can tell that albeit in a Zoom call. The guy, he’s non-stop. To the point where it’s like ‘Jeff, can we not talk about football for 5 minutes? Do you do anything else?’ That’s how he’s wired and I look forward to us getting him out there.”
This comment is coming from a man who has been around players like Malcolm Jenkins, Jalen Mills and plenty of others. That love of the game will serve Okudah well as he transitions to the NFL, which is the hardest league to enter and succeed in as a rookie. Most realize Okuah already has the talent, but when he brings this mindset, it could make him very hard to stop.
Jeff Okudah Studied NFL Wideouts at Ohio State
Okudah always wants to be prepared, a trait he learned early in his football career while at Ohio State. Part of that is doing all the work to try and master the position. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press explained in a piece, Okudah did some heavy research into wideouts during his time in college, and a name he will now face off with came up in Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers courtesy of his former position coach Jeff Hafley.
Here’s Birkett’s window into Okudah’s mind:
“Often, Okudah would ask about the best cornerbacks in the NFL, and what made them so great. And the best receivers.
At one point, he asked Hafley which NFL receivers were best at getting off the line of scrimmage. Hafley, who coached defensive backs for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2012-13), Cleveland Browns (2014-15) and San Francisco 49ers (2016-18), pulled up tape of Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams, whom Okudah will face twice this fall with the Lions.
“Then what he has to do, he wanted me to show him DBs that did a good job against him and how they did it and why they did it,” Hafley said. “Trust me, at this point we were like in the middle of game week, so I pulled out, whatever film I watched I probably had a couple clips from the Niners that I had and probably showed him a couple guys being patient and get him at the line of scrimmage.”
Such an intricate mind for his craft is likely what landed Okudah high on Detroit’s wish list this offseason. Half of being a successful cornerback is talent, but the other half involves having the right mindset for success as well as the right mind for preparation. It’s clear Okudah has this in a big way to be putting in this kind of effort in college.
Now, Adams will be coming for Okudah a few times a year, but the cornerback will at least have an idea going in what he’s up against. That could prove significant into the future.
Jeff Okudah Reveals Promise For Lions Fans
Okudah tweeted out a photo of himself in his new Lions colors, and if that wasn’t enough, he also revealed a promise. According to the cornerback, he’s going to give his all for the team he was just drafted to join.
It’s one thing for a player to say he plans on giving his all, but it’s another for him to do so publicly and make it a mindset. That’s what Okudah appears to be doing here.
For most, this will be the first time anyone has gotten a look at what Okudah will look like in his new Detroit uniform. Okudah will wear his collegiate No. 1 when camp starts, and after that, will have to pick a new jersey number to wear when he starts in the NFL.
Regardless of what number he wears, it’s nice to see Okudah understands the most important thing is playing hard for his new city.
Jeff Okudah Stats
Okudah ended up being the best player on the board when the Lions picked at No. 3. As also explained elsewhere, evaluators love his length and size. It could be a winning combination for a needy Detroit pass defense that has been exposed in a major way this season on the back end.
At Ohio State, Okudah has put up some excellent numbers in a short time. He’s collected 78 tackles, 3 interceptions, 16 passes defended and 2 fumble recoveries. Perhaps better than that for the Lions, he didn’t allow a completion over 50 yards this season.
That paints the portrait of a player who can be a potential lock down defender at the next level. Okudah was also a popular selection in mock drafts for Detroit, and that was proven right when the team selected him.
Okudah will be bringing a fresh, hungry mindset with him to work this fall and always loves the game 24-7. That’s something that should excite Lions fans looking toward the future.