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Okoye has chief concern

Former All-Pro running back will take part in Irrelevant Week festivities to honor Chiefs’ draft pick Succop.

June 19, 2009|By Steve Virgen

Christian Okoye, the former Kansas City Chiefs running back, made a habit of causing pain with his bruising style.

But now Okoye, once known as the “Nigerian Nightmare,” is all about trying to make dreams come true, giving back for the greater good. When he heard about Irrelevant Week and its help with charities, Okoye was happy to be a part of the festivities.

There’s also the fact that he won’t be the only Chief during the weeklong party. Ryan Succop, a kicker out of the University of South Carolina, became Mr. Irrelevant XXXIV when the Chiefs picked him with the dead-last pick in the NFL Draft.

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The two will meet next week, the big running back and the irrelevant kicker.

Okoye, who earned two Pro Bowl appearances while with the Chiefs (from 1987 to 1992), will be a featured guest at the All-Star Lowsman Banquet at the Newport Beach Marriott Hotel & Spa Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Succop will be presented with the Lowsman Trophy at the banquet. This trophy doesn’t have a figurine player straight-arming the opposition. It has a player fumbling the ball.

Okoye is all for the concept. He likes it.

“It’s a good idea,” Okoye said of Irrelevant Week. “It makes the last guy feel like he’s important. And this is great, especially because he’s playing for the Chiefs. I guess maybe we needed a kicker. If you’re a kicker and you get drafted, it must be a big deal because kickers usually don’t get drafted. They usually get picked up on waivers.”

Okoye was certainly a big deal in his playing days. He was a fullback with a unique blend of size, speed and strength. That helped him win the NFL rushing title in 1989 with 1,480 yards to go with 12 touchdowns.

He was so highly regarded that he was eventually named to the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2000. That was a time to reflect upon from where he had come.

Relating to the Mr. Irrelevant concept is easy for Okoye. He’s experienced his own rags-to-riches story. He began as an underdog, rising from humble beginnings.

In Nigeria, he grew up in poor conditions, dreaming of fame and fortune. His athleticism paved a way to America. He came to the U.S. in 1982 to compete in track and field at Azusa Pacific University.

Later, he realized he could build a career in football. He became a nightmare for defenses, anyone who got in his way. But now, life after football, Okoye is the opposite.

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