Okoro follows his first love

Tyrell Okoro said he fell in love at age 6.

The Bayside High School senior wasn’t referring to a childhood romance. Instead, he was talking about his desire and drive for the game of football. In exchange, his love has been rewarded by Morgan State University. The Division I program in Baltimore, Maryland, has recruited the offensive lineman for the upcoming 2011-12 season.

“I have been playing football since I was 6. I was just a big kid and I had to do something, so my parents got me into it,” said the 6-foot-4, 295-pound guard. “I started liking it and just fell in love from there.”

Okoro said he started realizing his potential while playing high school football in South Carolina in his sophomore year.

“I started playing offensive line my sophomore year,” said the brother of four sisters. “After also playing on the defensive side of the ball, I felt like the offensive side was where I belonged. I was just better at it and thought my blocking could get me to my goal of playing college football.”

A year later, he came to Queens and under the influence of his cousins, decided to attend Bayside High School and try to play football.

“I felt like I could contribute right away and make an impact in the Big Apple,” he said.

The South Ozone Park resident was a captain for two seasons. Last season, Okoro made the All-Queens team because Bayside was able to net over 2,000 yards rushing following his lead blocks – including 250 in the first game against Harry S. Truman High School, which later went on to win the 2011 Bowl Playoff Championship.

Okoro played on the defensive side of the ball as well, tallying 40 tackles, 12 for loss of yards. He was also a place kicker, connecting on eight of eleven attempts. To keep his conditioning up, he also played on the school’s varsity basketball team. Morgan State is only asking him to play on the offensive line, but the incoming freshman must make adjustments in order to succeed and contribute in his first season.

“It is not going be his knowledge or his technique – it is probably going to be his conditioning,” said Bayside High School varsity football coach Jason Levitt. “In order to play every single play, he is going to have to get his conditioning up.”

Morgan State University’s offensive line coach, who will be coaching Okoro next season, said that the athletic blocker must raise his strength to collegiate levels.

“He has pretty good feet; he dominated guys at his level last year,” said Morgan State coach Joseph Wright. “He has to transition to the college game and work on just overall strength.”

Okoro realizes that both his former and soon-to-be coaches are spot on in their assessments. He has set up goals over this summer to be the best player he can be. Most notably, he aims to bench press well over 300 pounds before the season starts. He is pushing about 260 pounds now.

“I want to get stronger,” he said. “My main thing is to be in the weight room, get bigger, faster and stronger.”

While Okoro will be working hard this summer, the team he is graduating from will be searching for his replacement.

“He is going to be a kid who is really hard to replace. I’m not even ready to think about it yet,” said Levitt. “He was one of those players who just wanted to knock you out every play. It’s legalized violence and he wanted that.”

Okoro has aspirations to be a high school physical education teacher when his playing days are over. He also would like to coach and cited his high school coaches as his inspiration.

“I just like what they do,” he said. “They enjoy their job and have fun, just like what I want to do.”


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