SAN ANTONIO – There is still one more order of business for Alex Okafor to take care of before he officially puts his high school days behind him.
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound defensive end from Pflugerville has already completed all of his high school graduation and is set to enroll at Texas in just a matter of weeks. But before that day comes, Okafor will get to showcase his skills one last time as a prep player on national television this Saturday at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
“It’s just a great honor to be out here,” said Okafor. “We’ve got some of the best players in the nation and just me being down here is a great honor knowing that I’m one of the best players. I just try to come down here, work hard and compete with the best.”
Playing in all-star games is becoming old hat for Okafor, who recently participated in national all-star game in Hawaii, where he received rave reviews for his performance during practice leading up to the game. Okafor says that while the attention garnered from playing in the Army game is special, the laid back feel of Hawaii simply cannot be duplicated. “We had a little more freedom down in Hawaii because everything is so tight and close together,” said Okafor. “Not as many people down in Hawaii know who we are so we were just regular people down there. Here, the Army game is a huge deal. They’ve got chaperons for us and everything is real tight. They give us freedom, but not too much.”
The all-star circuit came right on the heels of an impressive senior season for Okafor, who helped Pflugerville win a share of the District 25-5A Championship. The Panthers, who played for the Class 5A, Division II state championship in 2007, saw their season come to an end sooner than they would have liked with a 14-7 opening round playoff loss to Smithson Valley. The Army game will not only give Okafor one final opportunity to return to the site of last season’s state championship game, but also allow him to play one final high school contest in his home state, driving distance from his hometown. “There are fans from schools all over the country representing different schools, but I think Texas players have the most fans that are going to be here,” said Okafor. “It just great being able to come down here in your home state and have a big game like this just down the street. It doesn’t get much better than that because we have a lot of great fans supporting us.”
Fans of the Texas Longhorns will have plenty to cheer about on Saturday as seven future Longhorns will be taking the field for the West team. Okafor, along with defensive back Marcus Davis, defensive tackle Calvin Howell and linebacker Tariq Allen have all performed very well through two days of practice for the West team and their talent on the field is just as impressive as their camaraderie on the sideline and in between plays.
Wherever Okafor goes, Howell or Davis is not too far behind. The same can be said for offensive tackle Garrett Porter and running back Chris Whaley. The week of practice and time around San Antonio has proved to be a bonding experience for a group of commits that has already become very close throughout the summer and fall.
“We knew each other before this trip and were already pretty much a family,” said Okafor. “We just tightened that bond down here. Everybody has great personalities out of all of the commits. It’s a great environment to be around. We all get along with no fights, we’re just like brothers.”
Okafor has shown in practice, much like he did at the end of his junior season and throughout his senior campaign, that he has what it takes to play at a high level for the Horns. Okafor is not only strong at the point of attack and has a size/speed combination that makes for a long day for opposing offensive tackles, he has also shown the ability to dissect plays from the point of attack with his ability to fight through blocks and have enough time to dissect and disrupt plays with his quickness and speed.
Okafor is well aware that Horns will see all-American Brian Orakpo and seniors Henry Melton and Aaron Lewis depart after the Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State leaving some big holes to fill at defensive end. Okafor says that he is ready for the challenge knowing the he is likely to see time as a true freshman next fall. “I know the roster is pretty thin at the defensive end position,” said Okafor. “I feel like it’s my responsibility to get prepared and be ready to help the team if I need to. I’m going to get in there and try to put on some weight and work on my explosiveness and hopefully be ready to go if they need me.”