Late Thursday night, just an hour or two after his life changed by becoming the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, Jeff Okudah wished for a little seclusion. Clearly exhausted from an exciting and emotional day, Okudah politely answered all the questions from the Detroit Lions media, but was clearly read for some alone time.
“I’m looking forward to getting to be (by) myself tonight and just have a talk with her, a long talk with her.”
The “her” Okudah is referring to is his late mother, Marie, who passed away after a long battle with cancer back in 2017.
Okudah’s mother was a huge motivator in his life, despite the fact that she didn’t know much about the game of football, having been born in Nigeria. She was there every step of the way, even if her sickness often prevented her from seeing her son play football in high school. And on Thursday night, Okudah knew she was watching, proud of everything he had accomplished in life.
“I think just her seeing me smile, me being really excited, I think that it would just bring her to tears,” Okudah said. “She saw all the hard work. It was a moment that I was really just embracing each other in.”
Prior to the start of the NFL Draft, ESPN ran a feature on Okudah and his relationship with his mother as she battled against cancer from Okudah’s adolescence until his first week of college. He explains how her energy, even after her death, helped motivate him throughout his career at Ohio State.
You absolutely have to watch this: