Tonight was an emotional night for new Detroit Lions cornerback Jeff Okudah, who celebrated the Lions selecting him with the No. 3 overall pick, but with a heavy heart.
Okudah lost his greatest fan, his mother Marie, to cancer in 2017, and told Detroit reporters in a conference call he planned to spend some time Thursday night, just he and his mom, to have a long talk about this night they both dreamed of before she passed.
"I know she would've been in tears," Okudah said. "Honestly, she didn't really understand football like that just being born in Nigeria, but she knew what made me happy. So, I think just her seeing me smile, me being really excited, I think that it would just bring her to tears. She saw all the hard work. It was a moment that I was really just embracing each other in."
Okudah will have that moment, and then begin his NFL career with a determination to make his mother proud.
He plans to get right to work helping Detroit's defense improve.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn used the No. 3 pick on Okudah, so he will likely be a big part of what the Lions do defensively in 2020.
Okudah is the top cornerback in this class and becomes just the third cornerback the Lions have taken in the first round of the draft since it was condensed to seven rounds in 1994 (Bryant Westbrook & Terry Fair).
Okudah has elite foot quickness, size, speed and is physical in press coverage. He committed only one penalty this past season for the Buckeyes (late hit vs. Michigan).
He notched 35 tackles, defended 12 passes, had three interceptions and forced two fumbles this past season. He allowed a career passer rating of 55.7 over his three seasons at Ohio State and a completion percentage of just 43.2 when opposing passers threw his way. He has the size to guard big receivers and the speed to run with deep threats.
"At Ohio State, we played a bunch of coverages," Okudah said. "We played Cover 1, Cover 3, played some Cover 4. So I think my background of playing a bunch of defenses – I'm pretty confident that I can go in there and be able to learn the defense."
The Lions needed to come out of this draft with a cornerback to pair with veteran Desmond Trufant, who they signed in free agency after trading trading Darius Slay to the Eagles.
View photos of cornerback Jeff Okudah.
Okudah joins Trufant and Justin Coleman (nickel) as Detroit's top three cornerbacks. Okudah's addition gives the Lions good depth at cornerback, with second-year cornerback Amani Oruwariye and veterans Darryl Roberts, Mike Ford and others currently on the roster.
Okudah said he's excited to learn from a veteran cornerback like Trufant with his seven years of experience.
"I mean, I know he's been a really successful corner in the NFL for a while," Okudah said. "Actually, I want to get with him, I want to learn his process, his routine. I'm going to be around him a lot, so I'm going to try to soak up everything that he knows, things that he wishes that he could have done differently and kind of use his trials and testimony to maybe help myself avoid going through the same things."
Okudah has the necessary physical and mental makeup to push to be a No. 1 cornerback early in his NFL career, and the Lions hit on a big need to kick off their 2020 draft.