The Detroit Lions will lead the NFL in players with the last name of Okwara this year as they selected Notre Dame defensive end Julian Okwara in the third round of the draft to join brother Romeo on the roster. Here are Julian Okwara’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Lions’ over/under win total
Okwara was born in London while his mother was visiting family, but raised in Nigeria. His family moved to the USA when he was in the third grade and he attended high school in Charlotte. Okwara played basketball and soccer growing up in Africa, but fell in love with football when he got to the U.S.
He played immediately at Notre Dame as a freshman, getting into 11 games but having only four tackles. Okwara was one of nine true freshmen (Julian Love, Devin Studstill, Donte Vaughn, Jalen Elliott, Troy Pride Jr., Daelin Hayes, Chase Claypool and Jamir Jones) who played in at least eight games that year.
As a sophomore, Okwara played in 12 of 13 games. He had 17 tackles, including 10 solo stops, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one interception. Okwara became a starter as a junior in 2018. He totaled 38 tackles, 12.5 for loss with eight sacks and 21 QB hurries. He led the team in tackles for loss and tied for first in sacks.
Finally last year, Okwara started all nine games before suffering a season-ending injury at Duke. He finished with 18 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, seven QB hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery, while also blocking a kick. Notre Dame’s coaching staff reportedly clocked his top speed at 21 mph prior to his broken fibula. He was a monster in a win over Virginia with three sacks and forcing a pair of fumbles. He was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week nationally for that effort.
Okwara’s performance contributed to a defense that posted the most fumble recoveries and second-most takeaways in the FBS in 2019. In addition, Notre Dame has held 25 of 26 opponents over the past three seasons to 30 points or less. That includes ranked opponents LSU, Michigan, Stanford, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Clemson, Georgia, Virginia and Navy.
Detroit picked Okwara with the No. 67 overall pick. Okwara’s top-end speed doesn’t take away from his strength as his bull-rush remains his most dominant move —he benched 27 reps despite checking into Indy’s combine with lengthy 34 3/8″ arms. Although Okwara didn’t have amazing production at Notre Dame, according to NFL.com, 33% of his tackles went for a loss.
He should help provide help to the Lions’ woeful pass rush, which tied for second-worst in the NFL last year with 28 sacks, and will compete to start opposite Trey Flowers from Day 1 given the Lions’ lack of competition at that spot. Okwara also was a capable run defender as well and fits the versatile mold coach Matt Patricia likes.
“They’re getting a pass rusher, great defensive end, someone who wreaks havoc in the backfield,” Okwara told reporters after being drafted. “I’m looking forward to that on and off the field. I’m a dominant player. I love to win games. I’m looking forward to bringing a championship to Detroit.”
Rather amazingly, Julian and his older brother Romeo have never played organized football together. Romeo was a freshman at Notre Dame when Julian started high school football. When Julian followed his brother to Notre Dame, Romeo was headed to the NFL.
“I’ve always personally, wanted to play with him,” Julian said after being drafted by the Lions. “He probably definitely wanted to play with me, so this is crazy. It’s really happening now.”