Former Oklahoma State coaches remember Seattle Seahawks' Russell Okung as a man on a mission

by Michael Baldwin Published: July 28, 2013

Sandra Bullock's opening monologue in the movie “The Blind Side” is an accurate description of Seattle Seahawks' left tackle Russell Okung.

“You would guess the highest-paid player on any NFL team is the quarterback. And you would be right. But what you probably don't know is more often than not the second highest-paid player is the left tackle.

“As every housewife knows, the first check you write is for the mortgage but the second one is for the insurance. The left tackle's job is to protect the quarterback from what he can't see coming.

“The ideal left tackle is big, but a lot of people are big. He's wide in the butt and massive in the thighs. He has long arms, giant hands and his feet are as quick as a hiccup ... His job is to keep his quarterback from getting hit, protect his blind side.”

Facing some of the NFL's top pass rushers on a weekly basis, Okung allowed one sack last season to earn his first trip to the Pro Bowl.

During Okung's freshman year, Oklahoma State offensive line coach Joe Wickline sensed Okung had all the qualities to develop into an elite NFL offensive tackle.

“He loved matchups,” Wickline said. “On his best day, you could line him up against the best there is and he would have a different tempo with a different attitude. He would watch extra film. A lot of guys do that but he has a different gear.”

Okung also has an adventurous side. Earlier this month, the Houston product ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

“You hear this big shot go off and the bulls are on their way,” Okung told ESPN.com. “Before you know it, every plan you had, every strategy you had is out the window. You're running for your life. There was a thickness in the air, really electric. It's a surreal feeling.”

Okung told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that Seahawks officials weren't thrilled to hear about their Pro Bowler putting himself at risk.

“They told me they trusted I would make the best and right decisions,” Okung said. “In the States we get caught up thinking that's the whole world when it's really not. There's so much in this world it's amazing. There's so much life to be lived. I figured why not?”

Wickline wasn't shocked to hear Okung was involved in an event where people get gorged and trampled.

“I don't know if it's like he'll go to the Perkins rodeo and start dodging bulls, but he has a great sense of humor,” Wickline said. “He's a happy-go-lucky guy. As long as he stands for the right things and is doing the right stuff those are the main things.”

An Outland Trophy finalist, Okung was named an All-American and was the Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior. He was OSU's most decorated O-lineman since former Pittsburgh Steelers standout center Jon Kolb in the 1960s.

“From the very beginning, coming out of high school, there was no question he was on a mission,” Wickline said. “He had a plan. He wanted to go somewhere that would prepare him for the next level. He wanted to be the best, be an All-American.”

Okung detests talking about himself, which is why he rarely conducts interviews. Teammates and coaches do the talking for him, raving about him as a person and an elite player.

He was the Seahawks' Man of the Year for his charity work. He often speaks at FCA events.

“It starts with his mother, a great lady,” Wickline said. “He's made of the right stuff, a real quality guy. He's very humble. It was never about him, his jersey number or ‘Where do I fit in?'

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by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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