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Foye Oluokun plays for respect, not Pro Bowl selections

The young Falcons linebacker has the right mindset.

David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2020 seasons was rough for the Atlanta Falcons. This was a season in which the team started 0-5 before firing their head coach and general manager, only to then finish 4-12. In season’s where there a team struggles, is does provide an opportunity to see which players step up and prove they belong on the team before any inevitable changes are made in the offseason.

One of the few bright spots for the Falcons was the emergence of third-year linebacker Foye Oluokun. In 2020, Oluokun played in 15 games and he finished third in team sacks and led the team in tackles with 117. League-wide, Oluokun finished tied for 4th in forced fumbles with 4. His accolades left many fans anxious to vote for him for the 2021 Pro Bowl. As Falcons’ fans quickly realized, Oluokun did not make the initial ballot.

“At the beginning, like when I got left off, I didn’t really think much of it. I actually just woke up from a nap when I heard that I was left off the initial ballot,” Oluokun said on the Jim Rome Show. “It’s kind of a respect thing, at least for this year I earned my respect out there, but then when I wasn’t put on the ballot and I knew of guys who weren’t playing that well at the time, it’s odd that I wouldn’t be on the ballot. It was more motivation going into the rest of the year there, I don’t really play for Pro Bowl recognition, I play to win games — but I definitely wanted my respect too.”

He’s an intelligent, instinctive linebacker, and also if you watched Falcons’ games this year, he constantly flashed. The former 6th rounder has three seasons under his belt, and he just keeps improving. Even if Oluokun isn’t personally concerned about making the Pro Bowl someday, the fact that we’re even discussing it is a positive sign for the trajectory of his young NFL career, and a Pro Bowl selection would only reinforce that.

“That would be great. It means recognition for all of the hard work put in around the league,” Oluokun said. “But like I said I really don’t play for that Pro Bowl recognition, I know it’s a popularity contest and me coming from a small school, kinda unheard of for most of my career, it’ll be hard for me to get into the Pro Bowl. But with more success, and more good plays that I put out there, it’s more of a possibility.”

He’s focused on winning and being respected around the league. Although some fans are quick to argue that he’s not quite at the Pro Bowl level yet, you have to admire the self-confidence he has and the chip he has on his shoulder. Oluokun knows that he converted from safety to linebacker in the NFL and that he attended a prestigious institution which doesn’t pump out First-Team All-Pros in Yale. The opportunity for him to improve further and make the Pro Bowl a no-brainer next year is there for the taking.