A lot has been made about a pair of college teammates who were reunited on the Cardinals after the draft.
But another duo that joined forces in college has flown under the radar.
They met on Okafor’s recruiting trip to Texas during Acho’s sophomore year and found out they had more than a position and a Texas upbringing in common. Okafor’s parents, Chris and Sonia, are from Nigeria – just like Acho’s. The international connection bonded the two sons instantly, but it also gave the parents something to talk about.
“My dad was talking to his dad, and was like, ‘Your son’s got to come here, got to keep the tradition going,’” said Acho, referring to the lineage of linebackers and defensive linemen at Texas.
In the long run, the additional recruiting by Acho’s father, Sonny, may not have played a role in Texas landing Okafor, but it helped
But don’t let commonalities fool you, Acho said. This wasn’t a “best friends forever” or a “hang out every day” type of relationship. They spent most of their time together doing football things, watching film, studying the playbook, practicing, playing. As he’s been in Arizona, Acho was a resource for Okafor. That part of their friendship hasn’t changed.
“I just come to him when I have questions,” Okafor said. “You could say it’s like a mentor-mentee type of deal but it’s more of a friendship than anything. He just looks out for me.”
That’s why Acho sent Okafor a text message after he was chosen in the draft.
It was a scene Acho had seen before. In 2011, he watched as the first three rounds went by without being chosen. This year Acho watched as Okafor watched and waited just like he did.
After the networks signed off from Radio City Music Hall in New York, Acho texted his fellow Longhorn with a message.
“Hey man, God has a plan for you. It’s not about where you get drafted,” was Acho’s message. “I know a lot of guys who got drafted way before me and they’re not even in the NFL anymore or they’re third or fourth string so it’s all about what you do when you get here. It doesn’t matter where you’re drafted. It’s all about going to the right team and making the most of your opportunity.”
Okafor appreciated Acho’s words that night. And when Acho woke up the next morning, Okafor was again a teammate, having been selected by the Cardinals 103rd overall – the same spot as Acho.
“It’s nuts, I can’t even tell you. It’s crazy,” Okafor said.
“It’s ironic that we both ended up in the same spot so it’s really good that he reached out to me that night and kept my spirits up.”
The two haven’t missed a beat, especially in the meeting rooms. Okafor is still leaning on Acho for help and advice. During rookie minicamp, Acho asked Okafor how everything was going. Okafor said he didn’t understand a few things and Acho was quick to reply with answers and advice.
Acho isn’t worried about Okafor replacing him on the field but, as he did at Texas, he wants to prepare Okafor to fill in seamlessly. He’s even offered Okafor a place to stay after minicamp.
It’s a benefit few other rookies have but Okafor is more than grateful.
“I know when a lot of guys get picked they don’t know a lot of guys on the team,” Okafor said. “It’s just made it more comfortable coming to a spot where I knew somebody, definitely in the same position room. I felt like I had a leg up on the other guys because I had somebody I could talk to. It was a good situation.”