Russell Okung of Oklahoma State Could be First Offensive Tackle Selected
INDIANAPOLIS – Russell Okung doesn't know who's No. 1.
He doesn't care that much, either.
And from his perspective, the offensive tackle from Oklahoma State said it doesn't much matter what player at his position is the first selected in the April 22-24 2010 NFL Draft.
It could be Okung. Or it could be any one of several elite-level tackles in a draft class many observers and analysts consider one of the deepest at the position in recent memory.
Okung said all he can control is himself, and how he approaches working towards the draft and his NFL career.
So, he said, that's his focus.
"I'm just out here trying to compete," Okung said at the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine, held in late February at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis.
"Whatever position you're in, you're not just competing with yourself, you want to be first. You want to be No. 1. That's competitors in the game of football. You don't want to settle for anything less."
Okung (6-feet-5, 307 pounds) said there's a pretty obvious reason he doesn't concern himself much with draft rankings and prognostications:
Playing offensive line his whole career, he's used to a lack of notoriety.
"I've always been the quote unquote 'unsung hero,'' he said. "I'm definitely fine with that. It's not my dream to be the No. 1 of anything. I'm fine with just getting in the door."
His collegiate career ensured that will happen.
Okung, after starting eight games at right tackle as a freshman, started his last three seasons and surprised many observers when he opted to return for his senior season this past year.
As a junior in 2008, he led the Cowboys with 71 knock-down blocks, being named first-team All-Big 12 while helping Oklahoma State lead the conference in rushing. He was named the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year this past season, and was a consensus All-America selection.
"If you go back and look at how I play, I'm going to try to hit you in the mouth more times than you hit me in the mouth," Okung said. "That's just the way I am. Wherever I am, whatever offense I'm in, whatever setting, I plan to excel."
He finished his career as one of the most-honored linemen in Oklahoma State history, enough so that some labeled him the best lineman in school history.
"Our O-line coach would tell me otherwise," he said. "It's very humbling to actually hear something like that. But I don't really take too much into it. I'm just another guy at Oklahoma State trying to make his way."
And while a left tackle selected in the Top 10 of any NFL is considered a potential franchise-type player for whatever team selects him, Okung said his approach is not to worry much about the concept. He said labels such as that are typically determined deeper into a player's career, and in the beginning, there's little to be gained from considering himself in such a way.
"You talk about anyone being a franchise, they're obviously going to be a cornerstone for the team and for the franchise," he said. "It's a compliment just to be considered that. But right now, I've gotta get to work. That's not for me to decide.
"I'm going to bust my tail and compete and give all I've got on every play."
Okung, playing in the Big 12, played against some of college football's top defensive linemen, but he said during the combine there was a limit to how much he judged himself based on the past. He said while Oklahoma State zone-blocked enough that he should be familiar with that aspect of the NFL, and he said mostly in college, he judged himself based on his own scale.
"I never measured myself off an elite player," he said. "Measure yourself off consistency. Get better at your technique and go out week to week winning, I think that's the best way to make yourself a great player."
Okung said whatever pressure there may be as a projected "franchise" player is something he would welcome.
"But I don't think it's so much a left tackle," he said. "It's the front five. I definitely welcome the situation in front of me."
Mostly, he said what the NFL will be about initially is making what for many offensive tackles is a quick transition from college. While no position is an easy adjustment, left tackles such as Joe Thomas of the Cleveland Browns have excelled quickly in recent seasons and Okung said if the transition can be eased by work, he should be able to make it.
"I'm going to work," he said. "I'm not worried about working. I'm not worried about not finding a place – just making a smooth transition."
He is, he said, a player with enough perspective to realize the opunity to play in the NFL matters as much as draft status later this month.
"I don't know," he said when asked at the combine if he believed he would be the first tackle selected. "It's not my decision to make. Not my place to talk about it. I'm very aware, whether it's the seventh round or where I get drafted, it's a huge blessing to be standing in front of you guys right now. . . .
"I don't really listen to all these type of on-line web sites or whatever you guys be sending me or telling me. I'm just going to take it how I can get it."
BREAKING DOWN THE 2010 NFL DRAFT'S TOP OFFENSIVE TACKLES
The 2010 NFL Draft class is considered by many analysts one of the deepest in recent memory. That's true on both sides of the line and many believe it's particularly true at offensive tackle. Russell Okung of Oklahoma State is projected by many to be the first player selected at the position and potentially a Top 10 selection, but Trent Williams of Oklahoma, Bryan Bulaga of Iowa and Anthony Davis of Rutgers also are generally considered first-round tackles. Charles Brown of Southern Cal and Rodger Saffold of Indiana also are projected to have a chance to be selected late in the first round or early in the second, and Bruce Campbell of Maryland has been projected as high as the Top 10 and as low as the second round.
ON THE COLTS' ROSTER
Ryan Diem, 10th season, Northern Illinois; Charlie Johnson, fifth season, Oklahoma State; Tony Ugoh, fourth season, Arkansas; Adam Terry, sixth season, Syracuse; Gerald Cadogan, first season, Penn State.
THE LAST FIVE OFFENSIVE TACKLES
The last five offensive tackles drafted by the Colts . . .
2007: Tony Ugoh, second round, Arkansas.
2006: Charlie Johnson, sixth round, Oklahoma State.
2006: Michael Toudouze, fifth round, Texas Christian.
2004: Jake Scott, fifth round, Idaho.
2003: Makoa Freitas, sixth round, Arizona.
THIS YEAR'S DRAFT
An alphabetical list of 20 offensive tackles expected to be selected in the 2010 NFL Draft . . .
Charles Brown, Southern Cal, 6-6, 303
Bryan Bulaga*, Iowa, 6-6, 314
Kyle Calloway, Iowa, 6-7, 323
Bruce Campbell*, Maryland, 6-7, 314
Selvish Capers, West Virginia, 6-5, 308
Anthony Davis*, Rutgers, 6-5, 323
Vladimir Ducasse, Massachusetts, 6-5, 332
Jason Fox, Miami, 6-7, 303
Derek Hardman, Eastern Kentucky, 6-5, 304
Kevin Haslam, Rutgers, 6-5, 304
John Jerry, Mississippi, 6-6, 328
Chris Marinelli, Stanford, 6-7, 301
Rodger Saffold, Indiana, 6-5, 316
Russell Okung, Oklahoma State, 6-5, 307
Jared Veldheer, Hillsdale, 6-8, 312
Ed Wang, Virginia Tech, 6-5, 314
Tony Washington, Abilene Christian, 6-6, 311
Thomas Welch, Vanderbilt, 6-7, 307
Trent Williams, Oklahoma, 6-5, 315
Sam Young, Notre Dame, 6-8, 316
Note: The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on Colts.com in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.