By Brian Remsberg, Purdue Athletic Public Relations Student Assistant
October 7, 1998
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- On Oct. 3 against Minnesota, while sophomore quarterback Drew Brees and his wide receivers commanded all the attention, Purdue sophomore right guard Chukky Okobi and his fellow offensive lineman were content being out of the spotlight.
"I don't expect anybody to come talk to me," Okobi says. "The way I see it is lineman don't have any statistics. It's like, You were pushing guys really well,' but nobody wants to hear that."
Offensive linemen have to look for respect in other places. Okobi says he wants opponents in their scout meetings to say, "Look out for No. 56, he's doing this and that. I'm never going to be able to sit in their meetings, but if I play well enough that's what they're going to be talking about. And the only way I can get feedback is by being named All-Big Ten or All-American."
Okobi and his linemen can be proud of the way they played in the record-setting 56-21 victory over the Golden Gophers. They gave Brees plenty of time to find his receivers in his breakout performance. Brees did not come close to getting sacked while throwing for 522 yards and six touchdowns (both school records). But Okobi still doesn't think the Boilermakers have reached their full potential on offense, despite the school-record 692 total yards (604 passing, 88 rushing) they racked up. "We didn't get 100 yards rushing," he says. "I think there is always room for improvement."
Okobi, who is one of the shortest players at his position in the Big Ten Conference at 6-foot-2 (and 315 pounds), compares himself with the scorpion. "The scorpion is a real small creature, in the vast desert, the roughest terrain there is, but no matter what happens in the desert he always prevails through all there is, and that's me," Okobi says. "I'm just a small guard, but I feel I just keep coming out on top."
The son of a surgeon (Anthony) and a professor (Elsie), Okobi uses his head while he is on the football field, as well. Earlier this season junior center Jim Niedrach was out for a game and half with a knee injury and Okobi stepped right in without missing a beat or a block. "I've been spending all this time trying to get better at guard and all of the sudden, boom I've got to play center," he says. "It was an adjustment, but once Saturday comes around, I don't care where I'm playing. I'll play quarterback. I'm just trying to win."
As long as Okobi keeps doing his job protecting the quarterback, he
probably won't become a signal-caller anytime soon.