Oklahoma football: ‘Obo’ Okoronkwo returning for spring game

OU coach Bob Stoops (left) reacts to a call next to Brent Venables during the 2005 Bedlam game in Norman.jump
OU coach Bob Stoops (left) reacts to a call next to Brent Venables during the 2005 Bedlam game in Norman.jump /

The 2022 Red-White spring game is approaching quickly for the Oklahoma football Sooners, and a host of former stars from the program will be returning to the Palace on the Prairie on April 23.

Baker Mayfield, of course, is the headliner (as he always is) with his Heisman statue dedication set to take place at halftime of the game. But many other former Sooner stars will also make their return to Norman.

Among them is Ogbonnia “Obo” Okoronkwo, who played for the Sooners from 2013 to 2017. He was a part of Bob Stoops’ final four OU teams, and a captain, along with Mayfield, on Lincoln Riley’s first Sooner team

Obo hails from Alief Taylor High School in Houston, Texas. He was a three-star recruit and a part of Oklahoma’s 2013 recruiting class. Okoronkwo was behind Eric Striker on the depth chart in both 2014 and 2015, before breaking onto the scene in 2016. That season saw him register nine sacks and become the Sooners’ best pass rusher.

Okoronkwo’s 2017 season will be one that Sooner fans won’t soon forget. On a Mike Stoops defense that struggled mightily at all three levels and was, by some metrics, one of the worst in the country, Obo was one of the few players on that side of the ball Sooner fans could count on.

While Mayfield and the offense lit up the scoreboard and are still to this day one of the best offenses college football has ever seen, Okoronkwo was leading the defense and pressuring opposing quarterbacks relentlessly.

One memory that stood out from Okoronkwo’s 2017 season was the Red River Rivalry game against Texas. Obo chased Sam Ehlinger all over a hot Cotton Bowl field that afternoon in Dallas, finally collapsing as the final play from the Longhorns fell short and OU won, 29-24. Obo then planted the OU flag at midfield surrounded by his teammates on defense.

In all, Okoronkwo registered eight sacks in 2017 and was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft (160th overall) by the Los Angeles Rams.

Injury robbed Obo of his rookie season, but he appeared in ten games for the Rams in both 2019 and 2020. He played in thirteen games last season, his best yet, before injuries again knocked him out for the playoff run. He did win a ring for Super Bowl LVI last February.

Obo signed with the Houston Texans this offseason on a one-year deal worth $3.25 million. Before he takes the field for the Texans, he will be back in Oklahoma to watch Brent Venables’ first spring game as the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners.

Okoronkwo never had the pleasure of playing for Venables, but he is coming back anyway. Sooners’ fans can rest assured that the former stars of the program approve of the Venables hire and believe in his ability to lead this storied program.

In addition, the events that have taken place since late November have not only united the fan base, but apparently united the former players as well, whether they were coached by Brent Venables or not.