Any one who has left college and gone out into the real world will tell you it is great to have a mentor or familiar face to lead you in the right direction.
Okafor and third year line backer Sam Acho were teammates together for two years at the University of Texas and now have teamed up again with the Cardinals. A lot was stated about this duo reuniting after Okafor was first drafted, but now the team can see how valuable Acho is going to be for him in getting acclimated to the next level.
“I am coming into a situation that I am familiar with,” Okafor stated. “We did the same thing when I was at Texas when he was a junior and I was a freshman. He was two years ahead of me and it’s pretty much the same thing having someone you know, someone your comfortable with kind of teach you the scheme and tell you how to do things.”
“Sam is doing a great job mentoring Alex,” mentioned Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. “He is in his ear every time he pass rushes and tries to help him out.”
As the leader, Acho is not afraid to push Okafor and explain things to him when he is doing something wrong. He has a big brother and tough love mentality with him. Even though Okafor has been sidelined of late for Cardinals camp with an ankle injury, his big brother is helping him both on the field and off.
“The biggest thing for him will be to learn how to understand concepts and that’s been one thing I’ve been try to work with him a lot on,” Acho explained. “Learning when he needs to rush, when he needs to drop into coverage, how to play his leverage on tight ends or receivers. Those are the biggest things that will help him become a better player.”
“He’s (Okafor) got a great bull rush we’ve just got to get a counter move going for him,” Arians said. “But I like what I’ve seen. The ankle sprain is setting him back a bit but the combination of those two guys working together is very good.”
With Acho looking out for Okafor, he is finding it is bringing the best out of his game as well.
“I want to do my best to set a good example for him so if I am messing up, I have no room to tell Alex otherwise,” Acho explained. “I want to be able to set the example on the field before I tell him otherwise.”
“He knows that I look up to him and Sam always has that high standard for himself,” Okafor mentioned. “I know he is going to set a good example for me and I don’t expect anything less from him.”
Okafor is still nursing that ankle and isn’t expected to suit up for the Cardinals first preseason game against the Packers friday. But he mentioned he does not expect to miss much more time after that.
When he is back out there, he knows number 94 will be right there by his side, ready to push him.