Lions New DC 'Nothing But Impressed' With Football-Obsessed Okudah

"Jeff is driven like few men I’ve been around."

Will Burchfield
June 17, 2020 - 4:09 pm
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Jeff Okudah was the best cornerback in the country at Ohio State for a number of reasons. His speed and length, for starters. But also because of his intense study habits, which led to lots of extra hours with his coaches, watching tape and asking questions. 

Lions new defensive coordinator Cory Undlin is starting to see that for himself. 

"Jeff is driven like few men I’ve been around in this profession -- I know that and I can tell that, albeit (through) a Zoom call. I mean, the guy is non-stop, to the point where it’s like, 'Jeff, can we not talk about football for like five minutes? Can we talk about something else? Do you do anything else?' Like, what are we doing? That’s how he’s wired," Undlin said Wednesday in a Zoom call with local reporters. 

Chad Johnson, Jeff Okudah Plan Offseason Workout

Okudah's work ethic is one of the many reasons the Lions believe he'll make a quick transition to the NFL. In a virtual offseason, his hunger to learn can help make up for the lack of on-field reps. Those reps are irreplaceable, especially for a rookie, but all signs point to Okudah being ready when they come. 

Undlin brings a trained eye to the discussion. He was a safety during his playing days and he's spent extensive time as a defensive backs coach in the NFL, including the last five years with the Eagles. He knows a good corner when he sees one. And he loves what he's seen so far in Okudah. 

"I’ve been nothing but impressed with him since day one," said Undlin. "With this Zoom thing, I’ve spent a lot of time with Jeff. I think the people in Detroit and Lions fans are going to really, really like him, not only as a player but as a person." 

Patricia, Lions Asking Okudah To Be Their Gilmore

If there's any concern, it's that Okudah might try to take on too much before the season arrives. His own zeal might wear him down, like a student studying for a final on the first day of class. Not that it's a concern for Undlin. 

"Am I worried about the kid getting burnt out? No, not whatsoever," Undlin said. "Now, that rookie wall when you hit Week 10 or Week 11, that’s a different ballgame. But as far as mentally, I’m not worried about him getting burnt out at all, no." 

It wasn't a problem in college, after all. So why would it become one in the NFL? If anything, Okudah's all-football mentality is exactly the type of attitude Matt Patricia is looking for in Detroit. And it's just fine by Undlin, who can't wait to see what comes next. 

"I look forward to getting him out there," Undlin said. "We’ll see what it looks like when he’s on the grass, we’ll make that (evaluation) down the road. But the last (two) months, after we had the opportunity to draft him, it’s been nothing but impressive. I’m super excited for him and his future."