INDIANAPOLIS — Preparation, perseverance and persistence.
Growing up in Southern California as first generation Nigerian-Americans, Bobby Okereke and his siblings were often reminded of the "three Ps" by their parents, Kingsley and Sandra.
Those same principles helped Bobby achieve quite a lot as a youngster; by the time he got to Stanford, he had achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and had performed with his choir at the legendary Carnegie Hall.
A relatively late bloomer in football, however, the "three Ps" would also come in handy as Okereke discovered and since crafted his true passion — and turned it into a promising career at the highest of levels.
Okereke tonight is the latest subject of Colts Productions' "Colts Life" series, which takes you into his childhood home and provides a unique look at Okereke's upbringing and how it has shaped the man and football player he is today as a blooming young linebacker on the Indianapolis Colts.
If you missed out on this latest episode, you can catch it right here, with some highlights below:
» Travel with us to Orange County — or Tustin, Calif., to be more specific — as you get to meet many key parts of Okereke's life, including his parents, Kingsley and Sandra; his sister, Kimberley; his high school football coach, Doug Case; and scoutmaster, Scott Pilcher.
» What's clear watching this episode is the positive influence Okereke's parents had on him growing up. His dad came to America for college and then made his permanent home in California, but it was important not to forget where he came from.
"Growing up, education was always seen as the key. It's the way out," Kingsley said. "The goal has always been you have to be the best that you can be."
"The only thing our parents wanted for us as poor as they were was for us to go to school, do well, do the best we could in everything that we did," Sandra added.
» Okereke took his parents' lessons to heart. He was an excellent student growing up — "He's one of those people who is naturally very gifted and good at things, but he is also very hard working," his sister, Kimberley, said —but he was also very well-rounded. He joined the Boy Scouts at age 6 and by the time he left for college, he had earned the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.
His Eagle Scout project?
"I built director display maps at my church," Okereke said. "The fact that I could come home and do it to my home church, build my project here, is incredible.
Okereke also enjoyed singing in his school choir, which earned him a trip to — and the performance of a lifetime at — Carnegie Hall in New York.
"With choir you learn that your single voice is not more important than anybody else's, but it's integral to the whole group," Okereke said. "So it was an incredible experience."
» Perhaps not surprisingly, Okereke took to the athletics world, too. His parents loved watching him play soccer, but by the time high school rolled around, Okereke wanted to try something new.
"A lot of my friends played Pop Warner," he said. "When high school came, I had to try it out with my friends."
Bobby's parents weren't sold on the idea at first.
"I thought he was too much of a gentleman as a little kid," Kingsley said. "Soccer, that was the game. … I wasn't quite excited about it."
"He was very gentle, which is why the whole football, linebacker thing is a bit of a surprise to us," Sandra said. "How can you drop a sport you've played since you were in third grade for an unknown? It didn't really make sense to us at the time."
» It didn't take long for Okereke to change their minds. He excelled on the field at Football High School in Santa Ana. Wearing No. 81 and No. 1 with the Knights, Okereke made impressive play after impressive play, and wasn't shy about expressing his passion while doing it.
"Right away he was making all the plays," said Case, his high school coach.
"I could just see the pure joy on his face," Kingsley said about his son playing football. "He was so excited. … I'm like, 'Hey,' you know? 'I'm on board.' 'You enjoy it — hey, go for it.'"
» Okereke certainly went for it when it came time to decide what college to attend. While he had his choice of suitors, he ultimately landed on Stanford.
"I thought it was the best combination of academics and athletics in the nation, and now that I have my undergrad degree from there and I'm working on my Master's program, it's definitely a dream come true," Okereke said.
Stanford also got Okereke prepared for his new career in the NFL. He garnered Honorable Mention All-PAC-12 recognition in each of his final two seasons and saw action in 51 total games, totaling 240 career tackles (19 for a loss) with 10.5 sacks, nine passes defensed, three forced fumbles, one interception (returned for a touchdown), one fumble recovery and one safety.
It was that kind of stat-sheet-stuffing that the Colts and general manager Chris Ballard and Frank Reich were wanting out of their linebackers when they selected Okereke in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
"Bobby was one of those guys that we had our eye on that we we're just like, 'OK, we gotta get this guy,'" Reich said. "We're creating a tradition here at linebacker where we have linebackers who not only make tackles, but who make big plays. Bobby has all those intangibles — those instincts, the intelligence, and then his work ethic is second to none."
» Okereke certainly flashed those elite playmaking skills in his rookie season. He played in all 16 games, starting eight, and totaled 58 tackles (two for loss), 1.0 sack, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovered, two pass breakups, one quarterback hit, and he intercepted a two-point conversion pass attempt that he returned for two points the other way.
Okereke also only missed five tackles throughout the season, according to Pro Football Focus, which ranked fourth fewest among qualifying linebackers. Among rookie linebackers, Okereke allowed the second-fewest yards per reception (7.4), the third-fewest yards after catch (120) and the fourth-best opponent passer rating (102.0), according to PFF.
"I expect over the years we're gonna see Bobby Okereke make a lot of big plays on this defense," Reich said.
Okereke is expecting even bigger things in 2020.
"Year 2, I have a lot confidence and I'm definitely excited," he said.
» No matter how this season plays out, however, Okereke already has made his parents extremely proud.
Preparation, perseverance and persistence.
"It's good to see your kid doing something they really enjoy, that really brings out everything they have," Kingsley said. "I'm so proud of him. I'm really so proud of him."
PREVIOUS "COLTS LIFE" EPISODE RECAPS: