This will be the first episode of the fifth season of the Emmy-nominated “Football Life Series.” On Sept. 18, the televised premiere of the film was aired on the NFL Network.
“Everything about the night of the premiere was incredible. I was humbled by all the people who came out, and just having friends and family support me and watch the film together,” Okoye said. “I was so happy and full of gratitude that Azusa Pacific hosted the premiere on campus.”
Those in the athletic department believed it to be a success as well.
“It was one of the very finest non-sporting events the athletic department has ever had here at Azusa Pacific,” Athletic Director Gary Pine said. “It was a wonderful evening of celebrating a very significant person in the life of Azusa Pacific, celebrating our past and bringing people together who haven’t been together in a long time or have never been here on campus.”
Okoye grew up in Nigeria and played soccer until he was 17, as well as participating in his high school track and field team as a sprinter and thrower.
He won seven national titles in shot put, discus and hammer throw competing for APU while racking up a total of 17 All-American honors between track and field and football.
“I think the school did more for me than what I’ve done for it, because this campus is where I felt like I grew up,” Okoye said. “I came from a different country, and the school embraced me and my friends, so this was another example of what an incredible place Azusa Pacific is and why it will always be a special place for me.”
Although his track accomplishments were more than enough qualifications, the Nigerian government denied Okoye a place on the 1984 Summer Olympic team. Discouraged, he decided to join APU’s football team, even though the first time he watched a football game he found it boring.
Despite his first impression, Okoye’s massive figure and speed mixed with his talent led to him being selected in the 1987 NFL Draft by the Kansas City Chiefs after playing three seasons at Azusa Pacific.
“I remember Christian, quiet and reserved [when he first arrived at APU], it’s been kind of neat to see his development over the past 30 years,” Pine reminisced. “He’s now a man that can work a room and he can talk to anybody.”
The premiere prompted a lot of emotions among the audience, according to Pine.
“As the film ended, I had a lump in my throat because it ended with three significant Azusa Pacific people walking on our old hillside campus, and as I got up on stage to close the ceremony I called Christian up and he got a standing ovation,” Pine said.
The event was emotional for Okoye as well.
“It’s a good feeling to go back and see the places that I hadn’t visited in over 20 years, because even though things have changed at Azusa Pacific over the years, I had so many memories from that place.” Okoye said.
Pine also said that Okoye’s story helps students understand those who came before at APU.