Q&A: Chukky Okobi

PITTSBURGH – To start the weekly conference call with the opposing team's quarterback, a Pittsburgh reporter greeted San Diego's Drew Brees by saying he'd just spoken with Steelers center Chukky Okobi, who was Brees' center during his record-setting days at Purdue. Brees lit up at the mention of Okobi.

"Big Chuk, that's my guy," he said.

"Big Chuk" is the guy, and some day he'll be the go-to guy for reporters. Here's a taste of how Okobi can rise to the occasion in an interview:


Q: What's Drew Brees like?

A: He's the hardest-working man in show business. That's his thing, his work ethic. You'll never see nothing like it. That's why I couldn't understand why everyone counted him out. It was just a matter of time for him. All the negative criticism was like fuel for him. He used it to his advantage. You know, when they weren't winning there were a lot of people not doing things right. When you're the quarterback, you take too much blame when things go wrong and too much credit when things go right. Like now, they're winning and he's playing great, but a lot of people on their team are playing great.

Q: Were you surprised he wasn't drafted till the second round when he came out?

A: The first round is tough. There are only 32 spots and you have to look at team needs. For quarterbacks, there may have been only four spots, and every team has different opinions about players. Obviously they didn't think Drew Brees was the guy for them.

Q: His knock was that he was a systems guy. What were your thoughts on that?

A: That was B.S., man. You've got to look at the skills, the film, not the stats. He's not a tall quarterback and doesn't have a giant arm, but it's big enough. Is his arm as strong as Dan Marino's? No, but he does so many other things right. Playing quarterback is not all about arm strength.

Q: Do you have any stories about him that maybe provide a glimpse into his character?

A: He has great competitiveness. I was at his house in San Diego a couple years ago and he has the Golden Tee, a golf video game. I never played it, but I'm kind of winning. He got so frustrated and so mad that I thought he was going to fight me. I said, dude, you invited me here; we're just playing a game. He's just a competitor, man. He was a Heisman candidate, an All-American, All-Big 10, all everything, and he still was so competitive he had to have the top grade-point average on the team. He's a guy who would stay after practice and work on the little things: his releases, his footwork; he was always going to do more than the next guy to maintain that top spot. To me, for San Diego to draft Rivers – and you can't fault anyone for wanting Philip Rivers – that was like the last straw. I knew they just woke a sleeping giant because Drew was not going to let anyone take his spot, whether it be in the classroom or on the football field. He isn't going to let anyone challenge him.

Q: So you weren't surprised by how well he played last year?

A: No, not at all. You've got to understand I played with the guy for four years. I remember him on his visit because I red-shirted and he didn't. I saw him all the way from high school till now. There are no surprises. None.

Q: When's the last time you talked to him?

A: A couple weeks ago.

Q: Was he talking trash?

A: There's always some of that going on. He has a lot of confidence in himself and a lot of confidence in his team, as he should.

Q: How did he feel about the drafting of Rivers?

A: Irritated. Very irritated. He doesn't really talk about it. He actually likes Philip Rivers; it's not his fault. But it wasn't a big shock to him with the way things were going. He just felt that not only was he under pressure, the GM was under pressure, the coaches were under pressure. Those guys were forced to do something to alleviate the situation. He took it personal, but not too personal. He just said, ‘Well, I've got to prove them wrong.' He felt he let them down and there was still time to fix it.

Q: What about the line here? In light of the poor performance last week, do you see playing time on the horizon?

A: You say the O-line had a bad day; I say it didn't have its best day. To say we had a bad day is a bit of a stretch. Things are never as bad as they seem. I can go into any game, the Houston game, and show you five plays and you'd be like, they're terrible. I could also show you five plays from the New England game and you'd wonder why we didn't score a hundred points. We didn't have our best day but I don't think the guys played bad at all. I think all of us at every position had to play a little bit better against New England. The first two games, basically that's who we are. We had an off day, but it's a long season and we don't want to blow any loss, or any win, out of proportion.
As for me, I work for this organization and wouldn't trade my spot for a spot on any other team, start for any other team. I'd rather do what I'm doing now because my time is going to come. I'm behind great players. Like I said, it's early in the season and anything can go down. I don't see anyone getting benched, and them letting me play, because I don't believe any of the guys that are playing deserves to be benched. Everyone's playing pretty good.

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