NFL

Jeff Okudah Would Have Never Made It To the NFL Without Video Games

The Madden NFL video game franchise has been going strong for more than 30 years, with the first game in the series getting released, as John Madden Football, in 1988. That means an entire generation of football fans have grown up playing the game since they were kids — which includes players now in the NFL. Playing the popular game helps fans to learn more about football than watching games on TV.

They are responsible for utilizing strategy to help their teams win games, including picking plays from the playbook. The Madden games are a good primer to prepare young fans for a potential life of playing football. And rookie CB Jeff Okudah credits the game with getting him to the NFL.

Jeff Okudah’s college career

Okudah played three seasons at Ohio State before leaving after his junior year to make himself draft-eligible. In 35 games, he racked up 83 losses, with one resulting in a loss. He defended 18 passes, with three interceptions on hid ledger. He had one forced fumble in his collegiate career, and he recovered two fumbles.

He’s coming off his best season at OSU. He ranked fifth in the Big Ten in passes defended and third in the conference in interceptions while being named a Consensus All-American.

Heading to the Detriot Lions

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Jeff Okudah’s performance at Ohio State vaulted him up teams’ draft boards, and he came off the board at No. 3, with the Lions making him their first pick of the 2020 NFL draft. As such a high draft pick, Okudah should have a chance to have an impact on the Lions team as a rookie.

Ourlads.com has the former Buckeye No. 1 on the Lions’ depth chart at the right cornerback position. Heavy.com reports on Detroit defensive coordinator Cory Undlin’s thoughts on how Okudah has been doing in training camp. Undlin noted how little practice time the rookie has had thanks to pandemic restrictions, but the coordinator seems to be happy with how Okudah is doing, knowing that he’ll get better.

Undlin commended Okudah in that article, saying “he is on a steady incline which is all we can ask. I like the direction he’s heading in. We aren’t there yet. I don’t think any of us are there yet.”

Part of the cautiousness in Undlin’s comments may be to lessen the hype on the young defender and take some of the pressure off of Okudah as he gets acclimated to playing at the highest level of the sport.

Jeff Okudah credits ‘Madden’ with getting to the NFL

Jeff Okudah looks on before a play in a Lions game
Jeff Okudah playing in a recent game for the Lions | Dylan Buell/Getty Images

ESPN profiled Okudah and the role Madden had in getting him into the league. He recalls when he first started playing the game, which was before he started watching football. Okudah just liked winning games and got frustrated when he was losing to the computer.

He didn’t understand the rules but the competitor in him wanted to do better, so he kept playing. Eventually, he got hooked on both the video game and the sport, and he started playing football in real life.

Playing the game taught Okudah about offensive concepts, defensive coverages, and the history of the sport through the ‘Madden Ultimate Team’ feature, which showcases football greats. According to the article, Okudah regularly tells people that he “learned the rules from Madden. That’s really how I got a knowledge of the game.”

As he advanced in his football career in high school and college, he knew from the games what coverages should be so he was able to execute them on the field. Given his love of the franchise, it’s not surprising to learn that prior to the release of Madden NFL 21, Okudah was curious to see if the game’s developers got his “swag right on the field” and accurately portray his movements.

All stats courtesy of Sports Reference