Okoye in Iraq, 2006
|Born:||August 16, 1961|
|Height:||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Weight:||260 lb (118 kg)|
|NFL Draft:||1987 / Round: 2 / Pick: 35|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
Christian Emeka Okoye (//; born August 16, 1961), is a Nigerian-American former American football running back for the Kansas City Chiefs from 1987 to 1992. Nicknamed the "Nigerian Nightmare," Okoye was known for his powerful running style and ability to break tackles. Okoye's six seasons in the NFL saw a league rushing title in 1989, two Pro Bowl appearances (1989, 1991), and three playoff appearances. He ended his NFL career due to multiple injuries.
A member of the Igbo ethnic group, Okoye was born in Enugu, Nigeria. He arrived in the US at age 21 and did not play American football until age 23, when he joined the squad at California's Azusa Pacific University. He excelled in track and field, winning seven college titles in the shot put, discus, and hammer throw. The first time he attended an American football game he thought the game was boring.
After the Nigerian government failed to select Okoye for the Olympics, he sought something else to do besides track and field and went out for American football. Initially, Okoye did not enjoy the roughness of football and thought about quitting but friends convinced him to continue playing. His speed (4.45-second speed in the 40-yard dash) was unusual for someone his size (6'1" and 260 lb), and this rare combination of talents led to his selection in the second round of the 1987 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
In his rookie year, Okoye rushed for 660 yards on 157 carries. The following year, a thumb injury limited him to nine games, and he finished the season with 473 yards.
In 1989, Okoye enjoyed his best NFL season by far, leading the league in both rushing attempts (370) and rushing yards (1,480), becoming the first Chiefs player to lead the NFL in rushing. Though the Chiefs missed the playoffs, Okoye was selected by UPI as the American Football Conference's Offensive Player of the Year and earned a trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
The remainder of Okoye's career was marked by a nagging knee injury, one which limited him to 805 yards and a 3.3 yard average per carry in 1990. Though his 1991 performance (1,031 yards, 4.6 yards per carry) earned him his second Pro Bowl appearance, Okoye's carries in 1992 were largely limited to goal-line situations.
On August 25, 1993, Chiefs placed Okoye on injured reserve before the regular season began due to knee injuries. He underwent surgeries on both his knees and was released on an injury settlement that September. He went home to California to continue rehabilitating his knee. He intended to work out for other teams before ultimately retiring.
Okoye's last carry as a professional football running back was an 8-yard touchdown.
Okoye has stated that he ended his NFL career because he became tired of practice, and that he considered football to be a job.
Okoye retired as the Chiefs' all-time rushing leader, having amassed 4,897 yards, 1,246 attempts, and 14 games with at least 100 yards rushing, in his six seasons. Those team records have since been surpassed by Priest Holmes. His 40 career rushing touchdowns as a member of the Chiefs trail only Holmes and Marcus Allen. His Chiefs records for carries in a game and rushing attempts in a season were surpassed by Larry Johnson. Okoye was the team MVP in 1989, and was enshrined in the Chiefs Hall of Fame in 2000.
Note: GP = Games played; Att = Rushing attempts; Yds = Rushing yards; Avg = Average yards per carry; Long = Longest rush; Rush TD = Rushing touchdowns; Rec = Receptions; Yds = Receiving yards; Avg = Average yards per reception; Long = Longest reception; Rec TD = Receiving touchdowns
|Year||Team||GP||Att||Yds||Avg||Long||Rush TD||Rec||Yds||Avg||Long||Rec TD|
|1987||Kansas City Chiefs||12||157||660||4.2||43||3||24||169||7.0||22||0|
|1988||Kansas City Chiefs||9||105||473||4.5||48||3||8||51||6.4||12||0|
|1989||Kansas City Chiefs||15||370||1,480||4.0||59||12||2||12||6.0||8||0|
|1990||Kansas City Chiefs||14||245||805||3.3||32||7||4||23||5.8||8||0|
|1991||Kansas City Chiefs||14||225||1,031||4.6||48||9||3||34||11.3||13||0|
|1992||Kansas City Chiefs||15||144||448||3.1||22||6||1||5||5.0||5||0|
- Stats that are highlighted show career high
Okoye was an investor in the Golden Baseball League and owned Okoye Health and Fitness, a company that sells nutritional supplements. He made an appearance as a boxer on the FX Network's Celebrity Boxing special. He also founded the California Sports Hall of Fame of which he is president.
He appeared on the CBS reality show Pirate Master and was voted off by his shipmates on the second episode for his slow speed in the Expedition. He went home with no gold from Expeditions. Okoye appeared on Pros vs Joes in its third season.
The Christian Okoye Foundation sponsors the Ontario Mills 5K and 10K race. The proceeds of the race benefit local after-school athletic programs in the inland empire.
While growing up in Nigeria, Okoye became good friends with Olympian Innocent Egbunike. When Innocent began attending Azusa he spoke to track and field coaches about Okoye's ability in the discus and they offered Okoye a scholarship on Egbunike's recommendation.
Okoye married his college sweetheart Lauren Brown in 1990, and divorced in 1996. They had two children together, Michael Emeka Okoye born July 12, 1990, who died shortly after birth due to neonatal asphyxia, and Tiana Chinwe Okoye born August 26, 1991.
- Radio interview on the Phoenix-based sports talk show "Gambo & Ash" on KTAR 620, April 10, 2008
- "Christian Okoye's past spurs him forward". Orange County Register. June 23, 2015. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
- "Nigerian Nightmare: The legend lives on, 30 years later". ESPN.com. December 27, 2017. Retrieved March 3, 2019.
- Chiefs legend Christian Okoye discovers his Tecmo Super Bowl dominance
- "State's Hall of Fame to induct first class". Retrieved January 1, 2007.
- Warner, Tyrone (June 8, 2007). "Ex-NFL running back cut adrift from 'Pirate Master'". CTVglobemedia. Archived from the original on March 2, 2008. Retrieved February 27, 2009.
- "A Bruiser from Asuza". si.com. April 27, 1987. Retrieved February 3, 2018.
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