John Okwoli hopes speed caught eyes of NFL scouts
LARAMIE -- John Okwoli had just 24 catches during his four seasons in Laramie. Twelve of those -- a career best -- came from the right arm of Josh Allen in 2017. That's when Okwoli snagged his lone touchdown reception in a Cowboys uniform.
So, why would the former Cowboy think he even has a fighting chance at a future in the NFL?
That can be linked to one of his teammates during his sophomore season -- Rico Gafford.
What was he thinking about? Gafford and his blazing 40-yard dash time that caught the eyes of NFL scouts. Tuesday, there was 23 of those stopwatch holding, note jotting team representatives in attendance inside the Cowboys' indoor practice facility.
Gafford ran a 4.25 in the 40 that day. The defensive back was snagged by the Tennessee Titans in free agency. Now a member of the Las Vegas Raiders, Gafford made a splash in his first training camp with the Silver & Black. And it came at the receiver position.
Gafford finally got his shot on the 53-man roster late in the season and hauled in a 49-yard touchdown for his first NFL reception.
"That's pretty much what I was thinking about going in," Okwoli said Tuesday during Wyoming's annual Pro Day in Laramie. "Watching him run that 40 gave me a lot of confidence. Since my sophomore year, my stats don't really pop off the paper. I've accepted that. I'm trying to make sure I do good in events like this and excel like he does right now with the Raiders."
Okwoli was clocked in the 4.3-4.4 range Tuesday.
Last fall, the senior from Phoenix hit the 23-mph mark in camp. He joined teammate Tyler Hall as the fastest Cowboy on the roster. The results, however, never translated to the field. Okwoli says an ACL tear early in his career and a hand injury played a role in that.
But what if Okwoli does what Gafford does and switches positions?
The question has already been broached by scouts and Wyoming coaches. In fact, one team official said that very discussion came up early in the 2019 campaign when Antonio Hull left the program, CJ Coldon suffered a season-ending injury and Allen Smith was dismissed from the team, leaving the Cowboys' secondary with practically zero depth.
Craig Bohl and Co. never made the switch.
"Whatever NFL teams want me to do I'll gladly do it," Okwoli said. "If they want me to play defensive back, I'll play defensive back. If they want me to play special teams, I have a lot of special teams tape here.
Okwoli said he has been working on his back peddling, hip movement and foot work. He played cornerback in high school so the position isn't completely foreign to him.
During his final two years at North Canyon, Okwoli registered 73 tackles, five interceptions, six pass breakups, a fumble recovery and five tackles for loss. Okwoli said Division-I teams wanted him to play defensive back.
"I wanted to play wide receiver," he said. "I like having the ball in my hands. Whatever NFL teams see me as, I feel like I'm a pretty athletic guy. I wouldn't be opposed to that at all if I'm at the next level."
Okwoli said the nerves started to get to him when NFL types started measuring wingspan and other areas Tuesday morning. Players were asked to bench press 225 pounds first.
The senior threw that up 14 times.
Next came the vertical testing.
Okwoli reached 32 inches.
An athlete. That's the label Okwoli holds on to. He said when he came to Laramie he was in the dust of guys like Hall, Alijah Halliburton and even linebacker, Cassh Maluia.
"I hope to have some private invite workouts in the future," he said with a smile.