Foye Oluokun didn’t have his name announced by the commissioner when he was drafted in 2018 — he didn’t have his name called on night one of the draft, or even on night two.
In fact, the announcement that Foyesade Oluokun out of Yale University was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons came in the form of a ticker notification on the bottom of the screen, likely while ESPN draft coverage was in a commercial break. That’s customary for a sixth round draft selection.
But Oluokun has not been a typical sixth round selection. He stepped into a starting role in year one due to injury, and while his role hasn’t been as large in year two, he’s a player the Falcons may need to count on again soon.
I asked the Ivy Leaguer about the biggest adjustment he’s had to make in the NFL as opposed to playing four years in college football
“Everybody is a baller, I mean everybody came from college and is the best of the best. In college, especially where I came from, there were some guys out there who weren’t as good, and you could take like a play off, but you’ve gotta play your best play every play in the NFL.”
Oluokun didn’t allow his draft status to dictate his NFL success, however. Instead, he used that status, and the doubters, as fuel:
“I’ve always had a chip to prove people wrong. I’m not gonna say I shouldn’t have been a late round draft pick because of where I went to school. Like, being drafted out of there is a blessing in disguise. I just feel like there’s a lot of people who are saying maybe couldn’t do it, maybe he shouldn’t be there, so I’m always playing with a chip on my shoulder.”
Oluokun made an instant impact on the Falcons defense when Deion Jones went down to injury last season. He was second on the team in tackles with 91 in his rookie season despite starting just seven games.
What’s more impressive is that he was third in the entire NFL in tackle rate, behind only Pro Bowler Leighton Vander Esche and First Team All-Pro Darius Leonard.
I asked Oluokun what the biggest difference is playing in year two in the NFL as opposed to year one:
“Last year we had a lot of injuries so I got technically a lot of playing time. But this year it’s finding my role, helping the team with whatever, so Special Teams and when I do get in, instead of being in the back the team kind of counts on me when I’m in to be leading while I’m in there. That’s really the biggest difference, and I’m just seeing things faster having a year under my belt.”
With the defense not as banged up, Oluokun has yet to start a game, making most of his impact on Special Teams this year. He’s taken his role in stride, however, and may be in line for a starting job as soon as next season.
Not everyone comes into the NFL as a prized prospect, like Julio Jones or Matt Ryan were. In fact, most players come into the league as relative unknowns who have to carve out their role, just like Foye Oluokun. But he made it.
So, has the NFL experience been everything he expected it to be?
“Yea, I got a lot of advice from a couple of friends in the league. Where I trained at, when people came back and trained people were telling me stuff, so just listening to people was the biggest thing. I just take things as they go; there are really no expectations, whatever comes comes and you’ve got to make the most of your opportunity when you’re there.”
My thanks to Foye Oluokun for taking a few minutes to answer these questions.