NAIA Sports Information Intern Adam Samson spent the summer rooting through historical records in the national office. This is one story from his summer adventures on the mezzanine level of the national office.
I’ve never been a history buff, but when it comes to sports, I make an exception. While archiving the NAIA’s historical records this summer, I stumbled across a newspaper clip with the headline, “Nigeria has another Akeem, in football.” This immediately drew me in as I had followed NBA-great Akeem Olajuwon’s career and knew of his Nigerian roots. I continued reading.
“If an incredibly agile 7-foot Olajuwon scares you on the basketball court, consider Okoye, a 6-2, 250-pound tailback with 4.45 speed for 40 yards. He’s no refrigerator. He’s a Mack truck.”
Wow. 6-2, 250 with that kind of speed? I don’t think I would want to try tackling him.
I had heard of the Nigerian Nightmare before, but little did I know, Christian Okoye, the Nigerian Nightmare, was a multi-sport athlete at NAIA’s Azusa Pacific University (Calif.). It was there at Azusa Pacific that he won seven national titles in the shot put, discus and the hammer throw and totaled 17 All-American honors in track and field and football.
After his successful stint at Azusa Pacific, the Nigerian Nightmare made a name for himself in the National Football League as a running back with the Kansas City Chiefs. Okoye spent seven seasons in a Chiefs uniform and set numerous team rushing records. In 1989, Okoye scooped up a collection of awards including American Football Conference (AFC) MVP, Running Back of the Year, and First-Team All-Pro.
After doing a little extra research on Okoye, I found that he established the Christian Okoye Foundation, helping underprivileged youth use sports as an avenue to understand the importance of “education, community, focus and drive.” That is what I call a true NAIA Champion of Character.