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Lions impressed with Jeff Okudah's work ethic

When Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn was on the clock Thursday night during the first round of the NFL Draft, there were a handful of players who would have made sense for Detroit's third overall pick. But in the end, Quinn said the selection of Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah was an easy decision as Quinn introduced Okudah to the Detroit media during a virtual press conference Friday afternoon.

The Lions talked to just about every person that's known Okudah over the last two years, and all of them said the same thing: Not only is he a terrific talent on the field, but he's even more impressive off of it.

Lions head coach Matt Patricia and his staff got to know Okudah throughout the pre-draft process, and there was a moment during Okudah's Combine interview that cemented his status with coach.

"I'll say it's not often you meet someone and you spend a 15 to 18 minute interview at the Combine when you're rolling through players and that player says something that just sticks so hard to you as a person that explains who he is as a person and it's something that makes you go back and you talk to your wife about it and you're like, 'Wow, this is an amazing guy,'" Patricia said.

Okudah didn't say specifically what he said in that Combine interview, but he explained it was something personal to him regarding his upbringing.

One of the things both Quinn and Patricia have raved about is Okudah's work ethic and preparedness. That's something Okudah said he learned from his mother, Marie, while she was battling cancer while Jeff was a kid. Marie was going through chemotherapy, and still putting herself through nursing school. Marie lost her battle with cancer six days after Jeff got to Ohio State as a freshman.

"Just seeing that, (it) just instilled a work ethic just knowing that you get out what you put into things," Okudah said. "I'm always trying to put my best foot forward and strive to be great."

His relationship with his mother, and watching her battle cancer until the end, helped shape Okudah into the football player and the man he's become.

On the field, that's quick, tough, savvy and smart. He can play in multiple coverages, and his size, length and speed allow him to cover all types of receivers.

Off the field, Okudah has a drive to be great. He isn't afraid to ask for help or lean on a coach or veteran player. He's humble, and eager to absorb as much as he can.

That's something he learned early on at Ohio State.

"When I first got to Ohio State, I kind of struggled to pick up learning offenses and things like that, so after practice, I would just meet with one of the assistant GA's and we'd just watch practice and he would kind of talk to me about it from a coach's standpoint," Okudah said of sessions with V'Angelo Bentley, who is currently the GA at Penn State.

"Kind of through that way, I started watching film in the same way and eventually I was able to start watching it by myself. I just kind of fell in love with the process and how we started seeing patterns and they matched up practice. It's like you start (seeing) games slower and slower."

That's developed into an insatiable appetite for knowledge through film study and being the most prepared player on the field when it comes to gamedays.

"So, I'll get in on Monday and (we'll) watch the 11-, 10-, 12-personnel," Okudah said of his weekly routine at Ohio State. "Get back with the coaches the next day and meet with them and apply it to practice.

"So, really just studying the receivers throughout the week, being really detailed, looking at the route concepts the offense is trying to attack us with that week. Just being really meticulous about it, and I think that it's really helped our process, has really helped my play."

Okudah is a natural fit in Patricia's defense with his experience playing in a lot of different coverages and schemes at Ohio State. He's a man-cover corner with terrific size and speed. He has the ability to play the run and do just about anything the Lions will ask of him within their defense.

He has the kind of work ethic and drive this front office and coaching staff has tried to fill their locker room with. With all those factors in play, turning in Okudah's name was easy for Quinn and Patricia Thursday night.

"His ability to go in and study and outwork everyone he plays against and just his wanting to be great and his wanting to go compete and his wanting to make the team better and go win," Patricia said of the traits that drew Detroit to Okudah. "I think that's everything that we want."

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