Editor's note: The above video is from September 2014.
Before there was Jarryd Hayne, there was Lawrence Okoye.
Okoye was a finalist in the 2012 Olympic Games in the discus for his native Great Britain. Then, he pursued an NFL career as a defensive lineman. The 49ers – led by then-defensive line coach Jim Tomsula -- were willing to give Okoye that opportunity.
The latest turn in Okoye’s quest to play in the NFL came on Wednesday when the New York Jets announced his release. Okoye still has not played in an NFL game or spent any time on an active regular-season roster.
Now, like Hayne, he finds himself out of the league.
Hayne came to the 49ers last year after a successful career in Australia’s National Rugby League. Hayne did what Okoye has been unable to accomplish. Hayne, a running back, appeared in eight regular-season games. He rushed for 52 yards on 17 carries, and caught six passes for 27 yards.
Hayne last month “retired” from the NFL to pursue a spot on the Fiji national rugby sevens team that enters the Olympics as a strong contender for the gold medal this summer. Hayne is expected to have a difficult time earning a spot on the 12-man squad.
Okoye, 24, finds himself looking for another opportunity in the NFL.
Okoye originally signed with the 49ers in April 2013 after going undrafted. His presence at an NFL regional combine generated some buzz because of his unique athletic skills. Okoye (6 foot 6, 304 pounds) ran 4.78 seconds in the 40-yard dash and had a 35-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot-5 broad jump. But he had no background in American football, and had a difficult time learning the intricacies of the sport.
In August, the 49ers placed Okoye on injured reserve after sustaining a knee injury in the final exhibition game. Okoye spent the 2014 season on the 49ers’ practice squad.
Last season, the 49ers waived Okoye and did not re-sign him to the practice squad. He spent seven weeks on the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad. In November, he signed with the New York Jets’ practice squad. The Jets re-signed Okoye after the season, but he was unable to retain his spot on the 90-man roster with training camp set to begin in late-July.